Eckes steals a win in NASCAR’s Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway

Christian Eckes does his burnout after winning Friday’s Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway. Photo by David Barsk.

Rhodes edges DeBenedetto and Crafton for the final spot in the Round of 8

KANSAS CITY – Christian Eckes led only two laps, out of 134, but that was all he needed to bring home the victory in Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kansas Lottery 200 over the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval.

After the night’s fifth, and final, caution came out on lap 128, there were just two laps remaining when the race resumed.

Christian Eckes crosses the finish line to win Friday’s Kansas Lottery 200 at Kansas Speedway. Photo by David Barsk.

For the restart, Eckes lined up in the second row in fourth place beside Carson Hocevar and behind Corey Heim and Zane Smith.

But Eckes jumped into the lead and won a thrilling three-wide battle against Heim and Smith to earn his first win at Kansas Speedway, third of the season and fourth of his career.

“That was wild,” said Eckes. “I didn’t know if I was going to win it or not. We had, like, a sixth-place truck all day, but when that caution came out, I knew we had a shot at it, and here we are.

“We haven’t won in a real long time – so I wanted to set a tone. Went all the way to the Round of 10 – second, third, first (in the first three playoff races). So can’t beat that.”

The race ended the first round of the Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs, trimming the playoff field down from 10 to eight.

Christian Eckes celebrates in Victory Lane after winning Friday night’s Truck race at Kansas Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

When the green flag was waved to start the race, six of the final eight spots had been secured.

That left a four-way fight between Carson Hocevar, Ben Rhodes, Matt DiBenedetto, and Matt Crafton for the final position.

Despite finishing 25th, Rhodes won the right to move on after picking up 11 points in the race’s first two stages to finish five points ahead of DiBenedetto and 11 better than Crafton.

“Realistically, I should be happy, but I said it before — the expectation’s to move on,” said Rhodes. “The expectation’s to be in the (Championship) 4. So, meeting the expectation, I don’t think, is really a cause to celebrate. We’re just kind of moving to the next round. Celebrating is, I think, reserved for the championship or for a race win. Right now, we’re just heads down; we’ve got to keep grinding. Just because we made it, we can’t lose sight now.”

“Honestly, this team fought so hard, worked their tail off to give me a good-looking truck and a good-handling truck all night,” said DiBenedetto. “So, man, we made the most of it, for sure.”

Matt Crafton races in Friday night’s NASCAR Truck race at the Kansas Speedway. Crafton was one of 10 drivers battling for a spot in the playoffs Round of 8 but finished 33rd and was eliminated from contention. Photo by David Barks.

Also eliminated from the playoffs was Crafton, who had to go to a reserve truck after running over debris and wrecking in practice earlier in the day. Crafton’s Ford sideswiped the wall on Lap 69 of Friday’s race, and after repairs, he finished 33rd, nine laps down.

Chase Purdy won the pole with rookie Nick Sanchez starting beside him.

Sanchez, the only rookie to make the playoffs, grabbed the lead on the first lap and ran to the Stage 1 win with Purdy second and Rhodes third, Heim fourth and Eckes fifth.

The field takes off on the final restart of Friday night’s Truck race at Kansas Speedway. Photo by David Barks.

Hocevar finished Stage 1 in eighth place, earning enough points to lock up the seventh playoff spot.

Hocevar took over the lead with 10 laps left in Stage 2 and went on to the stage win ahead of Sanchez and Heim.

Heim grabbed the lead to start State 3 and battled Hocevar for the top spot most of the way until Eckes was able to steal the win after the final restart.

Sanchez led 43 laps, Heim 40, and Hocevar 32 – the only drivers to lead more than four laps – but it was the final two that made all the difference.

Finishing behind Eckes, in order, were Taylor Gray, DeBenedetto, Heim, Zane Smith, Hocevar, Stewart Friesen, Sanchez, Tyler Ankrum, and Jake Drew.

Advancing to the round of eight, in order, are Heim, Eckes, Grant Enfinger, Hocevar, Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, Rhodes, and Sanchez.

The opening race in the Round of 8 will be Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. (9 ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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