CONCORD, N.C. – Chris Eggleston brought a clean truck home in a battle of survival to notch a top-15 finish in his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start since 2014 on Saturday night.
Eggleston, making his debut appearance for DGR-CROSLEY in the No. 54 GlobeSprinkler.com/H2O Fire Protection Toyota, survived a chaotic closing stint to the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 and brought his truck home on the lead lap in 13th after fighting for a top-10 spot at times during the race.
“I hope the fans enjoyed that; I certainly enjoyed (the racing) from where I was at,” Eggleston said after climbing from his truck. “That last restart (with 10 to go) was the most fun one all night, because I could move around and play with different lines to move forward.”
The Erie, Colo., native said his night was about gathering as much data as he could and building a notebook for how racing in the Truck Series feels compared to what he’s done the last few years in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
“I feel like our run tonight was pretty solid. It was definitely a learning experience for me,” said Eggleston, who last raced a truck in 2014 for Bobby Dotter. “I felt like I was a little timid in traffic and it took me a while to get into a rhythm. I forgot how aero-sensitive these trucks are in traffic, so all night I was learning and soaking in as much as I could. I felt like I learned a lot and will be a lot more confident going into the next one.”
Eggleston made a late-race pit stop for fresh tires inside of 20 to go, restarting at the back of the lead lap in 23rd and climbing inside the top 15 by race’s end.
“Strategy ended up working in our favor and we ended up gaining a little track position at the end, but overall everyone worked really hard and I’m just glad all the fenders are still on it,” Eggleston noted. “Hopefully we can take it to Texas and keep improving our program out there.”
“It was easier for me at the end to manage the restarts because we had better tires than most of the other guys we were racing, but I think the worst part all night was when we got fuel only and restarted fifth with no tires (with 50 to go),” Eggleston recalled. “We were a sitting duck there. Myself and the 97 (Jesse Little) fell back pretty quickly. I’m just glad we kept it out of trouble all night and got what we could.”
The 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion could have just as easily returned to the West Coast for another year, but said during the offseason that he knew it was time to try and make a push to “expand his potential options” and has stuck to his guns.
Friday night marked Eggleston’s first of several scheduled Truck Series starts for DGR-CROSLEY this year and the first time he’s had a recurring role in the series since 2010, when he drove for owner Steve Urvan as a fresh-faced 21-year-old.
Asked if he remembered how the trucks drove when he was first in them eight years prior, Eggleston chuckled before responding.
“I don’t remember eight years ago, to be honest with you. Shoot, I don’t even remember last year!” Eggleston joked. “When I got back into this thing in practice, I thought to myself, ‘Holy (crap), you’re hauling around here in this thing.’
“The K&N (West) guys are at Orange Show (Speedway) this weekend … and I can tell you this much, this was way different than Orange Show was last year.”
With Charlotte being a track where a good-handling truck is vital for success, Eggleston said that his team still has a lot of work to do, but that Friday night was a solid start.
“We were just so tight all day … we fought tight in the middle and tight off, and we could never get out of that rut. If I drove it in an inch too far through the throttle, it just set me up for a terrible exit to the corner,” explained Eggleston. “It was really a test of where we need to put this thing and things we need to improve on.
“Overall, though, for me only having been in a truck one time in the last eight years, I think 13th is pretty solid,” he added. “As a racer, I always wish it was better, but it’s something we can build on.”
Eggleston will return to the Truck Series with DGR-CROSLEY on June 8 at Texas Motor Speedway.