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March 17, 2024

Strong Bristol results cement McAnally-Hilgemann Racing’s standing as Truck Series contender

Christian Eckes and Zane Smith talk at Bristol
Jonathan Bachman
Getty Images

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Christian Eckes’ hoisting of the victory sword in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race wasn’t the only celebration under the lights for McAnally-Hilgemann Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday evening.

It wouldn’t require much of a glimpse to see where else the organization excelled at “The Last Great Colosseum,” either, given how littered the top 15 was with McAnally-Hilgemann Chevrolets. Zane Smith, in the part-time No. 91, finished third, while Tyler Ankrum rounded out the top five with a fifth-place triumph. Daniel Dye, in the No. 43 Chevy, completed the McAnally-Hilgemann pack with a 13th-place finish.

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“It’s huge for us. It’s kind of been a rough stretch for this company, honestly,” Eckes said. “I mean, the 18 (Ankrum) has been running pretty good, but it’s been a grind at the shop trying to get everything together, and these guys deserve every minute of it because they work so hard. Yeah, this was a huge collaborative effort. It’s basically our setup from last year all four trucks ran, so what you saw in the 19 tonight, all three of the other trucks had, and you know, it’s cool to kind of have that level of team that we’re all building, and we’re all trying to do something special here, for sure.”

Lapped traffic and switching between the top and bottom lanes didn’t dissuade McAnally-Hilgemann from making the necessary strides where necessary. Eckes earned the pole during Saturday’s qualifying session and maintained his track position by battling and eventually prevailing over Kyle Busch during the waning laps, while Zane Smith (who started seventh) and Tyler Ankrum (who started ninth) each improved on their starting positions.

With the result, McAnally-Hilgemann finished inside the top five with multiple trucks for the first time this year after ending the 2023 Truck Series season at Phoenix Raceway with Eckes and Jake Garcia finishing 1-2 in the contest. The Bristol triumph Saturday evening additionally marked the first time that the organization finished with three trucks inside the top five.

“We were really good firing off; we made a couple of lane choices that I wish I could maybe have back, but our final ones were good,” Smith said. “I was happy with (our race), just needed a little bit more. I felt like we had a pretty good truck, just needed to be a little bit better on the longer run. Fun race track, had fun all day long. MHR is strong here, man. They’re fun trucks to drive, appreciate MHR and everyone for letting me have one to drive.”

Ankrum’s fifth-place finish gave the 23-year-old his second top five of 2024, netting the San Bernardino, California native multiple top fives in a Truck season for the first time since 2021. With the finish, Ankrum remains atop the Truck field in the points standings.

To Ankrum, the organizational victory further cemented McAnally-Hilgemann’s place among Truck teams jockeying for early-season positioning. McAnally-Hilgemann currently ranks first in the owner standings, 13 points clear of Spire Motorsports.

“Tonight, we broke that Spire parade up, and we’re gonna wanna continue that at COTA,” Ankrum said. “Right now, I feel like if you look at all the organizations, I mean, Spire is right there with us, but ThorSport isn’t qualifying and racing like we are as a whole and as an organization, Tricon (Garage) isn’t. The 17’s really fast right now, the 11 is really fast right now, but just as a whole, for a whole organization, it just goes to show you what kind of leadership that we got.”

MORE: 2024 Truck Series standings | 2024 Truck schedule

Next up on the spring docket will be a trek to Texas, where McAnally-Hilgemann will vie for another strong showing at Circuit of The Americas on March 23 (1:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

McAnally-Hilgemann will need to lean on the same top-to-bottom success the organization illustrated at Bristol for another strong effort to show itself. And with a huge momentum swing, the possibility is certainly there for the taking.

Such a possibility can only exist with uplifting momentum, and the upbeat organization certainly isn’t lacking in that area.

“It all starts with Bill McAnally and Bill Hilgemann, and then that just trickles down to the crew chiefs and to the drivers, all the way down to the electrician that rolls up on the shop on Monday to fix lightbulbs,” Ankrum said. “It’s huge as an organization.”