Eckes looking at dirt track debut at Springfield; "little help Frank?"

TOLEDO, Ohio (Aug. 11, 2017) -- Frank Kimmel may not know it yet, but he's going to be getting a call from Christian Eckes. Eckes, who has never raced on the dirt, is looking for a little good old-fashioned advice. Pretty good choice Eckes…considering no human has won more championship stock car races at Springfield than Kimmel...8 in all. Looking back through a past winners list that includes Al Unser, AJ Foyt, Dean Roper, Ken Schrader, Bob Keselowski and Parker Kligerman, Kimmel's Springfield stat pack is nothing short of incredible.

Eckes didn't know he was running Springfield this year…it wasn't originally on his schedule. But when he got the call to fill in for Christopher Bell, there was no hesitation to climb back inside the No. 15 New York Bus Sales Toyota for next Sunday's Herr's Potato Chips 100, despite the fact that he's never raced on dirt…in anything.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said the 16-year-old Middletown, N.Y. driver. "Every time I go with Venturini Motorsports, it's always fun. Trying something new for the first time makes it even more fun."

While Eckes has never turned a lap on a dirt track, he's coming with a head of steam, fresh off a solid runner-up run at Winchester, another track he had never seen before. Eckes literally used the 200-lap race at Winchester as a one big gigantic practice run.

"It'll be the same situation at Springfield. You only get an hour of practice…we should have a general understanding of what's going on (after practice), but we're going to learn a lot in the race. As long as we have it figured out by the last lap, we'll be okay."

Eckes also knows he's racing with a proven team with a lot of experience around him.

"I've got Venturini Motorsports to lean on. My crew chief Jeff McClure…the entire organization. There are a lot of successful people here…gives you some built-in confidence going in. I'm going to give Frank Kimmel a call…he's really good at Springfield."

You can say that again. Kimmel won his first dirt race at Springfield in 2000. If not for one from Bill Baird and one from Justin Allgaier, Kimmel would have won 9 straight at the historic fairgrounds horse track. His last win there was in 2012. Although he never considered himself a dirt track racer, he's always been ready with advice for those who take the time to ask.

"First of all, most of these young kids don't need a lot of help…they're in good cars and are already very good at what they do," said Kimmel.

"Main thing on the dirt is to be careful to not over-adjust on your car. When you first go out, it's not going to be the way it'll be in the race. It just doesn't drive in practice like it will later in the day.

"I would also say how important the low line is, especially at Springfield. Keep it on the bottom and drive it as straight as you can. There's a few guys who like to get it all sideways, which is cool, but, at least at Springfield, that's usually not what works during the race. The race is won by driving the car as straight as you can and keep the rear tires on it."

For Eckes, the chance to run the Springfield mile dirt is not only fun, but great experience.

"We're just trying to get some experience for next year…more than anything. I don't have a ton of expectations. I still think we'll be okay and I still think we can come out with a top-10."

After a short pause, Eckes sneaked in…."top-5."

Eckes joins a fairly lengthy list of drivers at Springfield who have never raced on dirt to include championship leaders Austin Theriault and Dalton Sargeant, plus Riley Herbst, Zane Smith and Gus Dean to name a few.

Herr's Potato Chips 100 Schedule
Practice for the Herr's Potato Chips 100 is scheduled from 9 - 10 a.m., with General Tire Pole Qualifying following at 11. The 55th annual Herr's Potato Chips 100 starts at 1:30 p.m. local Central time.

Live on MAVTV
The Herr's Potato Chips 100 is Live on MAVTV at 1:30 CT/2:30 ET. You can also follow Live timing and scoring and live chat of all on-track activity throughout the afternoon at 

Discounted Tix still on sale at area Menards stores
You still have time to buy your discounted tickets for the big show, on sale now at 10 Menards stores in Illinois through Saturday, August 19.

Fans can save $10 off the $30 gate price at two Menards stores in Springfield (Menards North and South), as well as stores in Champaign, Effingham, Forsyth, Normal, Pekin, Peoria, Quincy and Washington. Discounted tickets are $20 at Menards for ages 12 on up. Kids, 11 and under, are still $10 at the gate. 

Don Radebaugh