Eckes Takes Charge of Special Awards at DuQuoin
Eckes Takes Charge of Special Awards at DuQuoin
Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) might claim he’s no dirt ace, but his performance this weekend at DuQuoin suggests otherwise. Eckes picked up his second career ARCA Menards Series win on the dirt and his first at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in dominant fashion, taking most of ARCA’s special awards for his No. 15 Venturini Motorsports team. Eckes also closed to within 70 points of the overall championship lead in an all-around stellar weekend for the 18-year old Middletown, NY native.
Eckes may have tallied one for the young guns during the race, but General Tire Pole Qualifying gave the rugged veterans a moment in the spotlight first. 64-year old Ken Schrader (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Toyota) laid down a lap speed of 107.076 miles per hour and became the oldest polesitter in ARCA Menards Series history. The four-time Monster Energy Cup Series made his first appearance in an ARCA car since he ran 11th at Gateway last June and quickly proved that he’s still got it. Schrader is the ninth different driver to win a General Tire Pole Award this season. Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) and Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) lead the series with five and four poles respectively. Eckes is the only other driver with multiple pole awards, having started first twice.
Schrader led lap one, his first lap led in AMS competition since he led four laps at this race in 2016, but quickly gave way to Kelly Kovski (No. 16 Schluckebier Farms/RaceTires.com Chevrolet) on the second lap. Christian Eckes also muscled past Schrader and began to heat up Kovski’s back bumper in a fight for the lead. Eckes took the lead from Kovski on lap 10 and never looked back the rest of the night, earning him the Valvoline Lap Leader award as well as the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Leader award. It was the second time that Eckes has led at halfway this season, joining Michael Self and Chandler Smith as the only drivers to have pulled off that feat multiple times in 2019. Smith is on top of the overall Valvoline Lap Leader season-long standings with 659 laps led in just nine starts. Self is second with 480 laps led. The 91 laps Eckes led at DuQuoin boosted his total to 353 laps led, leaving him third in the standings. Ty Majeski (No. 22 Crestliner Boats Ford) is the only other driver to have led over 100 laps, with his 112 laps led placing him fourth.
Eckes was named the Bounty Rookie of the Race for his win. Eckes has a large lead in the Bounty Rookie Challenge standings, leading current runner-up Tommy Vigh Jr. (No. 10 Extreme Kleaner Ford) by a margin of 444-376. Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Dodge) is a distant third place with 330 points. Vigh finished 13th at DuQuoin, four laps behind Eckes, while Richmond finished seven laps down in 14th.
Eckes’ win from the second starting position gave crew chief Kevin Reed the nod as the Cometic Crew Chief of the Race at DuQuoin. Billy Venturini continues to lead the overall Cometic Crew Chief of the Year standings with 124 points, having coached Logan Seavey (No. 20 Craftsman Toyota) to a runner-up finish at DuQuoin. Reed is a longshot in second place with 158 points. Paul Andrews rounds out the top three with 168 points after finishing third at DuQuoin with Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford).
Though he finished fourth, Michael Self extended his Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge points lead to 140 points, giving him some much-needed breathing room. After nine races, Self tops the standings with 1900 points, while Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) and Corey Heim are tied for second with 1760 points. The next race at Salem will be the second-to-last short track race of the season, and the congestion at the top of the Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge standings may only grow tighter when Chandler Smith returns to the field after sitting out the two dirt events.
Bret Holmes continued a strong season that has seen him running at the finish of every race with a ninth-place run at DuQuoin. Holmes has completed 2177 of a possible 2186 laps this season, allowing him to lead the S&S Volvo Laps Completed standings. Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Ford) is ready to pounce should Holmes run into a DNF, having completed 2090 laps this year. Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 Eat Sleep Race Ford) is third with 2035 laps completed in the 2019 season.
The CGS Imaging Four Crown will return at Salem for the final time in 2019, with the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 serving as the designated short track race in the Four Crown. Michael Self is in the lead in the Four Crown standings with 625 points. Self finished fifth at Talladega, first at Michigan, and first at Springfield in the first three Four Crown events. Self will look to keep the momentum rolling as he goes for his third straight win in Four Crown races. Bret Holmes isn’t far behind Self, though, as his 590 points leave him just 35 behind Self. Travis Braden and Joe Graf Jr. are within striking distance as well, with both drivers sitting in a tie for third place with 570 points, 55 behind Self.
The next race on the ARCA Menards Series schedule is the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 from the Salem Speedway. It will be the 18th of 20 races in the 2019 season. The 106th ARCA race at Salem will also be the site of the series’ throwback weekend, with several teams choosing to run schemes paying homage to racing legends. MAVTV will carry live television coverage from the high-banked short track beginning at 7:00 Eastern on Saturday, September 14. Live timing & scoring and a live chat feature will be available on ARCAracing.com free for all registered users.