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April 5, 2024

Christian Eckes survives late-race restarts, dominates Truck Series race at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – It was indeed a special night for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Christian Eckes, who dominated Friday night’s Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville Speedway.

Eschewing a trip to pit road between the first and second stages at the 0.526-mile short track, Eckes led the first 104 laps, swept the stages and worked his way back through the field from 19th after pitting at the Stage 2 break.

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Undeterred by the chaos that produced 11 cautions for 81 laps, Eckes took the lead for the final time on Lap 172 in a side-by-side battle against pole winner Ty Majeski, who regained the top spot when Eckes came to pit road for the only time during the 200-lap event.

“Something really special,” Eckes said of the effort of his No. 19 McAnally-Hilgemann Racing team and the quality of his Chevrolet. “We came here last year, and we weren’t really that great… we were maybe a sixth-place truck (started sixth and finished 15th).

“And we worked really hard on it, and here we are in Victory Lane. So just super proud of this entire team.”

The victory was the second of the season for Eckes, who won from the pole at Bristol last month. It was his first triumph at Martinsville and the seventh of his career.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos

Starting from the top spot on the grid, Majeski gave up the lead on the first lap as Eckes powered past him.

“The 19 (Eckes) was tough tonight,” Majeski said. “He was just a little but better than us. He had better tires (in the final stage), and I just could not launch on restarts…

“But I think we left here with the points lead today. Really solid day. Obviously, you want to win. I wanted that grandfather clock (trophy), but I’m super proud of this team. We’ve been working hard at getting our trucks better, and just a little but short tonight.”

Majeski leaves Martinsville as the series leader, with a seven-point edge over Corey Heim and Tyler Ankrum.

Chase Purdy ran third to post his fourth top-five finish in 81 Truck Series starts. Nick Sanchez was fourth, followed by Ankrum, Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth, Sammy Smith, Kaden Honeycutt and Heim.

Australian Supercars star Cam Waters finished 30th in his NASCAR debut, a casualty of a chain-reaction collision on Lap 177 that left his No. 66 ThorSport Racing Ford spewing hot vapor like a geyser.

“I had so much fun tonight and all day today,” Waters said. “It is totally different racing from what I usually do, and I just wanted to learn. I learned so much.

“There at the end I just had nowhere to go and knocked the radiator out of it. It is a shame, but I was having fun and learning and had some awesome battles, too.”

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the Martinsville garage concluded without issue, confirming Eckes as the race winner.