Christian Eckes Buckles Up for Double OT NASCAR truck win at Darlington Raceway

Christian Eckes crosses the finish line ahead of Stewart Friesen, giving Eckes the win in Friday night’s Buckle Up South Carolina 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The official starter is seen waving both the checkered and yellow flags. Photo by David Barks

NASCAR Buckle Up 200 needs officials' ruling before declaring Christian Eckes the winner

DARLINGTON, SC – Did he or didn’t he?

There was some confusion about whether the race ended in double overtime or if Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Series truck race would have to give it another go.

But the replay showed Christian Eckes crossed the finish line fractions of a second before the yellow flag came out after Grant Enfinger scraped the wall on the track labeled ‘The Lady in Black’ and ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’.

That made Eckes the winner of the Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington Raceway.

Corey Heim (11) leads the field at the start of Friday nights NSCAR Craftsman Series Buckle Up South Carolina 200 Truck Series racfe. Photo by David Barks.

It was the second win this season for the 23-year-old racer and the third of his Truck Series career.

“I just can’t say enough about this truck,” said Eckes. “I’m not even excited – this truck just drove itself. I was really determined. It is really fun to be here when you have a truck like this. You just have to finish it out.”

Stewart Friesen finished second followed by Tanner Gray, Cup Series racer William Byron, Carson Hocevar, rookie Rajah Caruth, Cup racer Bubba Wallace, Corey Heim, Kalen Honeycutt, and Dean Thompson.

“It was tough driving in dirty air but we almost got there,” said Friesen. “I’m proud of our finish tonight.”
The race was caution free through the first two stages but the yellow flag flew five times over the final 60 laps (not including the final one that didn’t fly after Enfinger’s incident).
Heim started from the pole position, raced out to the lead, and held it for the first 26 laps before Eckes caught him for his first lead of the night.

Eckes went on to win the stage.

Byron, Heim, and Eckes battled it out through Stage 2 with Byron getting the stage win.

Eckes was in the lead four different times for a total of 82 laps, moving in front on lap 132 and staying out front for the final 27 laps.

Byron was battling for the lead for most of the final stage – staying two or three car lengths behind.

But with 10 laps to go, Timmy Hill spun in Turn 4 and hit the wall. The caution sent the race into overtime.

On the first lap of the two-lap overtime shootout, rookie Jake Garcia, who was running eighth at the time, got loose and spun out o the backstretch, sending the race into double OT.

Eckes jumped back into the lead on the final restart, but Byron had some trouble, falling back to fourth.

When most everyone pitted after the fifth caution, Heim stayed out.

But on older tires, he was quickly passed by almost everyone and fell back to 21st.

On the sixth caution, Heim went for fresh tires and quickly was able to drive back to the top 10, hitting eighth place when the final caution flag flew.

But that’s as close as he got.

Eckes got a great launch on the final restart.

Freisen and Gray followed as Byron dropped to fourth.

“I tried to push past the 19 (Eckes) as best I could but I spun my tires on that final restart,” said Gray, a former NHRA Pro Stock world champion. “I don’t think we fired off well and we were really loose. We didn’t get the result we wanted but all-in-all I’m happy.”

“We just needed longer runs,” said Byron. “We were good on longer runs but at the end, we didn’t get there. It was fun. Hopefully, my team and I learned some things we can use in Sunday’s Cup race.”

“I was a little concerned about Byron,” said Eckes. “I grew up racing against William. He was making some ground and got really close. To go against one of the best from the top series turned out really well.”

Then almost simultaneously, Enfinger crashed as Eckes crossed the finish line.

You can see in the photo that the checkered flag and yellow flag came out together.

NASCAR officials, using electronic timing, determined that Eckes’ crossing the line happened first and that race was his.

NASCAR’S Throwback Weekend continues Saturday with Xfinity Shriners Children’s 200.

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