By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Let’s, for a moment, imagine a scenario.
Two drivers are racing for the win in the closing laps of a race. One is a veteran with 20 years of experience. The other is a teenager in his first full-time season.
Who comes out on top?
If you guessed the veteran, you would be correct — but it wasn’t quite that easy on Saturday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway.
As the laps wound down in the second Truck Series race on a rare double-header weekend, it became clear that the win was going to come down to two drivers: an accomplished veteran and a budding youngster.
Specifically, three-time and reigning series champion Matt Crafton verses 19-year-old Christian Eckes, who is in his first full-time season and has yet to earn his first career victory in the series.
Crafton vs. Eckes
It's a battle for the win with less than 10 to go at @kansasspeedway!
— NASCAR Gander Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) July 25, 2020
While you might think that such a match-up would favor Crafton, Eckes put up a fight that impressed the ThorSport Racing driver.
“He did a really good job,” Crafton said of Eckes after the race. “I gotta thank him. He’s the one that helped get us here today because that last restart, whenever he locked my bumpers and got us out there in the lead.”
Crafton led 23 of the race’s 134 laps, taking the lead for the final time on lap 113. However, Eckes was not far behind and basically stayed on Crafton’s bumper the remainder of the race, making multiple attempts at the lead as the laps wound down.
Eckes finished second, 0.324 seconds behind Crafton.
The runner-up finish was a marked improvement over the 13th-place run the night before.
“… We sucked yesterday,” said Eckes post-race. “We were so damn bad, but Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and the guys, I can’t say enough about them. They made some really good adjustments today and we got it way better last night. P2 is still good, but of course we wish we still won. In the same aspect, from where we even started today, finishing second is still pretty close. Just have to go back and figure out what we can do better.”
The second-place run was the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports team’s third top-five finish in 10 races this season, including another runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway on July 18th.
The strong performance this season has Eckes solidly in the Playoffs with a 77-point lead over the cutoff line with two races left in the regular season.
The next Truck Series race will take place on Friday, August 7th at Michigan International Speedway. Coverage will begin at 6:00PM ET on FS1.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images