For the second consecutive week the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crowned a first-time winner. Christian Eckes, a 20-year old New York native, took the lead on a final restart with four laps remaining to claim his first trophy and lead a historic 1-2-3-4 finish for the ThorSport Racing team at the Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday.
Eckes teammate Ben Rhodes finished .272-seconds back, followed by playoff driver Matt Crafton and then veteran Johnny Sauter to complete the ThorSport four-of-a-kind at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Todd Gilliland finished fifth after leading a race-best 66 laps.
Although understandably excited on the radio when he realized he’d won the race, Eckes was more subdued and reflective when he climbed out of his No. 98 ThorSport Toyota and greeted the crowd.
“Man, this is big,” said Eckes, formerly a Kyle Busch Motorsports driver who was making only his ninth start in a part-time campaign with ThorSport this season.
“It’s been a tough year. That’s all I got to say, it’s been a tough year since last November. Hopefully I proved I can still do this.
“I’m speechless. It’s been a rough year, been a rough year.”
With the runner-up effort, Rhodes was the top-finishing playoff driver in a race that saw five of the eight playoff contenders finish 20th or worse. Rhodes’ work, coupled with an uncharacteristically tough outing for regular-season champion John Hunter Nemechek, changed the top of the points standings for the first time since Week 3 of the season.
Rhodes, who won the opening two races of the season, now holds a six-point edge over Nemechek, who finished 33rd with mechanical problems as the series goes into the second race of this three-race playoff round. Prior to his No. 4 KBM Toyota suffering issues, Nemechek earned his series-best 11th stage win, taking the opening segment.
Playoff driver Stewart Friesen finished sixth, followed by Grant Enfinger, Austin Wayne Self, Ryan Truex and Austin Hill.
Not only was it a rough night for the championship contenders — it was a bitter pill to swallow for Gilliland, who paced the race most of the night and had been leading prior to that last restart.
“I think that was the most fun I’ve ever had racing a truck, but it stinks walking away from a race track for the second straight week, ultra-disappointed,” said Gilliland, who won Stage 2 and led a race best 66 laps. Last week, he was eliminated from Playoff contention by a mere two points.
The majority of current playoff drivers could relate.
Last week’s first-time race winner, Chandler Smith, and reigning series champion Sheldon Creed finished 35th and 36th after being involved in a big accident on Lap 70.
“Restarts were insane all night,” Creed said, adding, “I didn’t have a great truck but thought we were a top-eight truck at least. Unfortunate, but it’s going to make Talladega fun and interesting.”
The series races next Saturday in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Talladega Superspeedway (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Raphael Lessard won the race in 2020.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race — 25th Annual Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Presented by Westgate Resorts
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Friday, September 24, 2021
1. (15) Christian Eckes, Toyota, 134.
2. (7) Ben Rhodes (P), Toyota, 134.
3. (6) Matt Crafton (P), Toyota, 134.
4. (11) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 134.
5. (8) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 134.
6. (3) Stewart Friesen (P), Toyota, 134.
7. (23) Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 134.
8. (13) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 134.
9. (14) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 134.
10. (10) Austin Hill, Toyota, 134.
11. (35) Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 134.
12. (12) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 134.
13. (19) Chase Purdy #, Chevrolet, 134.
14. (33) Tate Fogleman, Chevrolet, 134.
15. (34) Spencer Davis, Toyota, 134.
16. (26) Kris Wright #, Chevrolet, 134.
17. (24) Tyler Hill, Chevrolet, 133.
18. (28) Danny Bohn, Toyota, 133.
19. (31) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 133.
20. (30) CJ McLaughlin(i), Toyota, 133.
21. (36) Dylan Lupton, Toyota, 133.
22. (5) Carson Hocevar # (P), Chevrolet, 132.
23. (29) Tanner Gray, Ford, 132.
24. (18) Drew Dollar, Toyota, 132.
25. (22) Brett Moffitt(i), Chevrolet, 131.
26. (25) Howie Disavino III, Chevrolet, 130.
27. (32) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Ford, 129.
28. (21) Cory Roper, Ford, 121.
29. (4) Zane Smith (P), Chevrolet, 115.
30. (20) Jack Wood, Chevrolet, Accident, 114.
31. (17) Hailie Deegan #, Ford, Accident, 101.
32. (37) Keith McGee, Toyota, Too Slow, 91.
33. (1) John Hunter Nemechek (P), Toyota, 85.
34. (16) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, Accident, 70.
35. (2) Chandler Smith # (P), Toyota, Accident, 70.
36. (9) Sheldon Creed (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 70.
37. (27) Chris Hacker, Chevrolet, DVP, 6.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 105.358 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 54 Mins, 28 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 39 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Nemechek (P) 1-33;T. Gilliland 34-36;S. Friesen (P) 37;T. Gilliland 38-45;B. Rhodes (P) 46-50;T. Gilliland 51-62;C. Hocevar # (P) 63-70;A. Hill 71-82;T. Fogleman 83;B. Holmes 84;B. Moffitt(i) 85;T. Gilliland 86-115;J. Sauter 116-117;T. Gilliland 118-130;C. Eckes 131-134.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Todd Gilliland 5 times for 66 laps; John Hunter Nemechek (P) 1 time for 33 laps; Austin Hill 1 time for 12 laps; Carson Hocevar # (P) 1 time for 8 laps; Ben Rhodes (P) 1 time for 5 laps; Christian Eckes 1 time for 4 laps; Johnny Sauter 1 time for 2 laps; Tate Fogleman 1 time for 1 lap; Brett Moffitt(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Bret Holmes 1 time for 1 lap; Stewart Friesen (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,38,18,99,52,21,98,2,16,26
Stage #2 Top Ten: 38,99,42,52,2,15,16,88,98,18
–By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.