NASCAR Truck Series: 5 Takeaways from Darlington

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 12: Christian Eckes, driver of the #19 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Buckle Up South Carolina 200 at Darlington Raceway on May 12, 2023 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Christian Eckes grabs win number two of 2023 under yellow, Corey Heim has another career race, multiple drivers make incredible saves, and more. Here are 5 takeaways from Darlington Raceway.

1. Christian Eckes gets his second win of the season

Honoring Hershel McGriff and his #52 Oldsmobile 88 Coupe that he drove in the first Southern 500, Christian Eckes dominated at Darlington Friday night. The #19 Chevy qualified fourth, then went on to win stage one and lead 82 laps. Dominating on restarts, he held fast through the six cautions in the final stage. He took the lead on the final restart, with a hard-charging Stewart Friesen coming fast. Grant Enfinger hit the wall, sending tire debris across the track, and bringing out the yellow flag, ending the race.

Eckes, in a press release from MHR, said “We were really good tonight, and we got to keep doing this. Just really cool. This is a historic place. It’s really cool to win here for Hershel (McGriff), for everybody on this team. Like I said, it’s been really, really rough the last couple, and to come back and do it like we did is really special.”. Eckes is fifth in the championship points, two points behind Ben Rhodes and 39 behind Zane Smith.

2. Corey Heim leads 66 laps, but can’t get the win:

Driving the #11 honoring Timothy Peters and Red Horse Racing, Corey Heim had a truck equally as fast as Eckes. Earning the pole position, he finished second in both Stages 1 and 2, and led 66 laps. Corey battled William Byron for the second stage win, showing incredible car control against the Cup Series driver. Heim and Eckes lead the field to the third stage start. He started Lap 118 on old tires and got a poor launch, allowing Eckes to drive by him and Heim could never recover the lead. The #11 truck would finish eighth, not the finish that team was planning on.

3. Cup Series drivers have quiet races

Cup Series drivers William Byron, Ross ChastainCorey LaJoie, and Bubba Wallace quietly earned practice for Sunday’s Goodyear 400. Byron had the best night of the four, winning stage two over Corey Heim, and finishing fourth in the Kyle Busch Motorsports #51 Chevrolet. Wallace, driving the #1 Tundra for TRICON Garage, dueled with Rajah Caruth, with Caruth finishing sixth and Wallace in seventh. Chastain, a quiet night before the events of Sunday’s race, finished 13th. LaJoie had the loudest night of the bunch, getting into a battle with Carson Hocevar. LaJoie got loose under the #42 and put him into the wall, with LaJoie saving his truck from getting into the fence.

4. Two attempts at an overtime finish

Fans got two attempts at overtime finishes at Darlington. The first two attempts saw spins before Christian Eckes and the field could get around to the white flag. On the last restart, Eckes and Friesen lead the field to green. Friesen did not get a good launch, allowing Tanner Gray to move to the second position. Gray and Friesen swapped positions, not until Grant Enfinger slammed into the wall, and cut a tire down, ending the race. Before the restarts, Hailie Deegan led her first laps in the Truck Series, leading two.

5: Some of the best throwback schemes

This weekend saw trucks honoring drivers of past years. Here are my picks for the top three throwback schemes fans saw this weekend:

  • Nick Sanchez, REV Racing, Mario Andretti’s 1967 Daytona 500 Win:

  • Lawless Alan, Niece Motorsports, honoring Adam Petty 

  • TRICON Garage honoring Red Horse Racing

The Craftsman Truck Series heads into one of the most anticipated races of the season next week, the Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway, on Saturday, May 20th.

Featured Image Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images