By Sterling Siemens
It was a Friday filled with all sorts of emotions for Christian Eckes.
“Today did not go smoothly at all,” Eckes said.
While it may not have been the smoothest day, it was a day that resulted in the 18-year-old driver from Middletown, New York winning the Kansas 150 at Kansas Speedway on Friday night. More importantly though, Eckes clinched the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship over his Venturini Motorsports teammate, Michael Self.
The championship bookends a rollercoaster season for Eckes, who was forced to sit out the third race of the season due to a sudden illness, and had to climb up from the back of the starting field this weekend after his team made an engine change after qualifying.
The setbacks, however, weren’t enough to slow Eckes down. He registered a strong second half of the season, finishing the year with seven consecutive finishes of either first or second, including three victories to improve his season total to four wins.
“We drove up to fourth in 20 laps,” Eckes said. “I knew we had a fast racecar, but we were just 1 stop away from being really good, and we showed that in the end.”
Eckes passed teammate and championship rival Michael Self for the lead on a restart with 43 laps to go, and held the top spot the rest of the way, winning the race and the championship.
“It’s big,” Eckes said. “Growing up, I was a Sean Corr fan because my dad knew his dad…growing up watching ARCA and watching Sean race is what really put it into perspective for me, how cool ARCA is, how good of a series it is. To be the champion, after watching Frank [Kimmel] and people like that…it’s huge, and adding my name to the list of so many great drivers is big as well.”
Michael Self went against Eckes for the championship and, while Self started on the the front row and led the most laps on the night, the 28-year-old Utah native couldn’t mount a challenge once Eckes got out front.
“We did have a really good shot at [the championship],” Self said. “He just got a better restart than we did. And that’s what sums up the championship.”
In the end, Eckes won the title over Michael Self by 20 points in the last year of ARCA, as many have come to know it. Next year, ARCA will merge with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series to create a new format of competition under the ARCA brand.
For now though, a new champion is crowned and celebrating with his team on a magical season to remember this weekend in Kansas City.
Quote source: https://www.nascar.com/news-media/2019/10/18/christian-eckes-wins-2019-arca-menards-series-championship-kansas-race/
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org