By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
The only person who kept 19-year-old Christian Eckes from scoring his first Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway was none other than his boss, Kyle Busch.
In his first full season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, it looked as though the Vankor 250 would be his first visit to Victory Lane. Leading 52 laps on the night, it came down to one last battle between himself and team owner Busch on a restart with 10 laps to go.
And though he couldn’t beat the 59-time winner, Eckes came home second, a career-high effort for the New Yorker through 20 starts.
“I wish Kyle [Busch] picked a different race to go to,” Eckes joked. “It’s such a great day for our Toyota. I thought I knew where my marks were, and I thought I did an OK job [during a green-flag pit top] and I come out and he’s a straightaway ahead of me.
“I have a little more work to do but we battled hard. It was really fun to go toe-to-toe with the best. Got to be a little better to beat him. I thought out truck was good enough to beat him, I just have to improve a few things.”
His second top five of 2020, Eckes hasn’t been satisfied with the results thus far in equipment capable of winning weekly. The 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion hopes to stay on this hot run into Kansas Speedway next week in his No. 18 Toyota.
“It’s pretty cool to race side-by-side with [Busch] like that,” he said. “I have to try and figure out how to pass him. He’s really hard to pass. We’ll go back to the lab and try to get better.”
The rookie held his own throughout the day, leading Busch in multiple battles for the lead along with Zane Smith. Busch noticed the speed in Eckes and is optimistic about the rookie’s upcoming races.
“What can you say about Christian, he’s getting better each week,” he said. “Every time out, they get that chemistry going more and more with Rudy Fugle [crew chief] and those guys. Real proud of that Safelite Tundra running fast and being there to challenge us at the end. I wanted to make sure we went out on a win.”