Christian Eckes wins a caution-filled Atlanta race, Nick Sanchez almost wins, and Deegan gets her first finish of the season.
Atlanta produced a caution-filled Craftsman Truck Series race with lots of storylines to discuss. Here are five takeaways from the weekend.
1 – MHR and Christian Eckes score their first win together
At the end of the 2022 season, Thorsport announced Christian Eckes would not be returning. Eckes found a new home at McAnally-Hinglemann Racing and sponsor in NAPA Auto Parts. They immediately had a winning combination, leading 19 laps at Daytona and a top ten at Las Vegas. A win was going to come soon, and it did at Atlanta. Starting fourth, Eckes and the #19 team won stage one, and led 35 laps to win MHR their first win in the Truck Series. In the post-race press conference, Christian Eckes said it was emotional, with how his off-season had been. MHR and Eckes have been lightning-fast these past three races, and I can see this being a solid playoff run for the #19 team in 2023
Christian Eckes won the first truck race for McAnally Hilgemann Racing as he captured the checkered flag at Atlanta. What he feels that meant for the organization and himself after he found out in the offseason that he wasn’t returning to ThorSport Racing. pic.twitter.com/Be0WCmUQJx
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 20, 2023
2 – Nick Sanchez finishes second
Another fast Silverado these past two races has been the #2 of Nick Sanchez. He earned the pole at Daytona, and dueled with Kyle Busch at Las Vegas, leading eight laps before a wreck took him out. At Atlanta, Sanchez was there at the end, he got stage points in stage 2 and led eleven laps. On the final lap, Nick was leading going down the back stretch when the #19 got alongside him. The two raced side by side in turns three and four until Sanchez got sideways out of the corner. If not for that slide, we could have seen an incredibly close finish between the two Chevrolets, but a strong result that will help Nick in his quest for rookie of the year.
P2 in Atlanta. Would’ve done some things different if I could redo the final lap. Proud of my team for battling with me. Let’s continue to push✌️ pic.twitter.com/G0eRLqXBaU
— Nicholas Sanchez (@Nicksanchez080) March 19, 2023
3 – Deegan finishes 12th, first race finished this season
Having an incredibly tough 2023 season, Hailie Deegan had not finished a race until Saturday. Finishing 12th, this result helps the team get their feet back under them. In her weekly vlog published on her YouTube Channel, Deegan stated that the #13 team’s plan was to hang back the first two stages and race hard the last stage. Their plan worked and secured a top fifteen, hopefully giving them positive momentum moving forward.
Thorsport’s Fords are capable of winning each race week, and we need to be seeing more results like this. With Circuit of the America’s next and her most recent finish at a road course, Mid-Ohio, being tenth, I believe she can continue the good finishes and positive results. Keep your eye on her these coming races.
4 – Part-timers produce strong results
The part-time racers had a day on Saturday. John Hunter Nemechek led the group, finishing third for TRICON Garage. Bayley Currey followed finishing fourth in the #41 Silverado for Niece Motorsports. Jack Wood in the #51 for KBM was leading the race when he was spun by Nemechek and rallied back to a top-ten finish. Ryan Vargas, driving for On Point Motorsports brought his Tundra home in fourteenth, a solid outing for his first time with the team. Akinori Ogata had a wild day, spinning out, but salvaging it for a top twenty. Some were not as fortunate, Layne Riggs finished 28th and Keith McGee did not finish, and a broken transmission ended his day.
5 – Wild finish to a race with eleven cautions
Atlanta “Super Speedway” gave us another caution-filled race. This race saw no practice to begin with and to make matters worse, qualifying got rained out so the race was set by the qualifying metric. This race ran 42.7% under caution and had an average green flag run of 7.2 laps, placing it second for the highest percent run under caution this year, after Daytona.
The past three races have been painful to watch. As the lowest of the three national series, this series is full of drivers and sponsors trying to make a new for themselves. These drivers need practice, especially drivers like Layne Riggs who had never run at Atlanta, ZERO practice going into a race is absurd. It contributes to the second issue which is the race craft of the drivers. Whether it is a lack of sportsmanship or lack of practice, it seems that the drivers in the Truck Series wreck far too often. Give these drivers back some practice laps, it would be good for both drivers and sponsors. The veterans, like Matt Crafton, should stand up and put an end to the lack of sportsmanship. I hope things improve going forward and we can have a good clean race in the future.