TALLADEGA, Ala. – For some stock car drivers, it takes years of practice and experience to gain a level of comfort at the sport’s two biggest and fastest race tracks, Daytona Int’l Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The style of racing, in which drivers stay on the throttle all the way around while using the draft – or the slipstream of the car in front of you – to stay within the pack and to make passes takes a very specialized skill set, to say the least.
For Christian Eckes, he has about three weeks’ worth of experience from earlier this year at Daytona, but he’s hoping to convert that into a victory during Friday’s General Tire 200.
Eckes qualified on the General Tire Pole at Daytona, ran up front all night long and crossed the finish line in fourth place at the end. He then stayed for another week and matched his qualifying run in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
He started from the Truck Series pole and ran up front, but was swept into a crash not of his making and finished a disappointing 22nd.
Needless to say, Eckes picked up on that specialized skill set quickly.
“It’s really easy, honestly, when you have fast race cars,” Eckes said. “That has been the case so far as my superspeedway career, I’ve sat on both poles. The race is pretty straight forward, don’t lose the draft and be there at the end … and you’ll have a shot at a win.”
Eckes now focuses his attention on Daytona’s sister track, Talladega Superspeedway. He’s especially anxious to return to action after missing the series’ last event at Salem Speedway due to illness, which dropped him from the lead to fifth in the point standings.
While he does have some experience at Daytona, and some success, the track at Talladega does have some noticeable differences. Those differences often make the races play out a little differently.
“I honestly feel like we will have a shot at it,” Eckes said. “We did at Daytona, and I feel if one or two things changed during the race we could have won. It’ll be the same car that’s sat on two straight speedway poles, so I know the car will be there again.
“All we have to do is execute and we’ll end up having a shot.”
The list of drivers that have won an ARCA Menards Series race at Talladega is long, and some have used that victory to catapult to success in NASCAR’s upper divisions.
Eckes would like to follow in the footsteps of those before him, like Mark Martin and Davey Allison, both of whom won at Talladega to jumpstart their stock car careers.
“It’d mean a lot to win at Talladega,” he said. “After the past week it’d be a damn good comeback, and (with) how the points situation is looking it’s crucial to have a good race here. All we can do is execute and do our jobs the best we can.
“I know that my team and I can do it, so we’ll see what happens on Friday.”