While one Kyle Busch Motorsports driver had reason to celebrate, another saw his NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship hopes dashed.
Raphael Lessard edged out Trevor Bayne for his first career victory on the final lap as the caution flag flew in Saturday‘s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway, the Round of 10 elimination race. But it was No. 18 KBM Toyota driver Christian Eckes who was caught up in the last-lap crash, failing to advance into the Round of 8 as a result.
RELATED: Race results
Eckes was in position throughout the 94-lap race to earn a strong finish to advance, especially after fellow playoff driver Zane Smith was taken out early after a big crash on Lap 13. But along with a pit-road penalty, Eckes was shuffled toward the back of the pack in the closing laps after being shoved to the apron of the race track in Turn 1. The rookie driver was working his way back up after the final two-lap sprint to the finish before it all came crashing down.
“I just came up short,” Eckes said. “Sucks that we are not going to be able to move on to round two, but in the same aspect my Safelite Toyota team tried hard. We did all we could. I‘m sure we made some mistakes on the day like the pit road penalties and some other things, but we will move on to the last four races and give the playoff guys hell.”
Eckes, who came into Talladega eighth in the standings with a six-point cushion, along with Front Row Motorsports driver Todd Gilliland, were the two drivers left on the outside of the cutline when the race concluded.
Now with four races remaining in the 2020 season, winning his first career race in his rookie season is the lone goal that remains.
“We don‘t have any championship hopes on the line, unfortunately, anymore, but in the same aspect, there is still plenty of team goals to achieve,” Eckes said. “We will do the best we can. I wish we did a little bit better in the first two races of this round to separate us, but that‘s 2020 and we will move on to the next four.”