Sometimes a victory tastes sweetest when it comes as a chaser for a bitter defeat.

That was certainly the case for pole winner Christian Eckes, who held off Kyle Busch in the closing laps to win Saturday night’s Weather Guard Truck Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In last year’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff race at Bristol, Eckes gave up the lead to Corey Heim with six laps left and finished second by 0.218 seconds.

The loss cost Eckes, who led 150 laps in that event, a berth in the Championship 4 at Phoenix, where his victory in the season finale gave him a consolation prize but not a title.

On Saturday night, Eckes passed Busch for the lead on Lap 159 and held it for the final 92 circuits as Busch made a frenetic charge that fell just short. In traffic, Eckes crossed the finish line 0.141 seconds ahead of the career Truck Series victory leader.

“Oh, man, it’s so sweet,” said Eckes, who won for the first time this season, the first time at Bristol and the sixth time in his career.  “There’s just so much behind this win from last year, missing out on the Championship 4 and losing the race with (six) to go.

“To come back and redeem ourselves was our number one goal, and not only that, but the first three races (of this season), how terribly they’ve gone. We had a lot of issues, and to come back and run really good just show s the resilience of the team.”

By putting his No. 19 McAnally Hilgemann Racing Silverado in Victory Lane, Eckes extended Chevrolet’s 2024 Truck Series winning streak to four races.

Under the sixth and final caution, which slowed Busch’s pursuit for eight laps, Busch radioed to his team, “We’re a second-place truck, maybe third.”

But that didn’t prevent Busch from charging after Eckes after a restart on Lap 227 of 250. As the run progressed, Busch cut into Eckes’ lead, which had grown to more than one second, and closed to his back bumper by the time Eckes crossed the finish line.

“The crazy part about it is, we fought loose all through practice, all through qualifying, all through the beginning part of the race on older date codes,” Busch said. “Then we put on the newer date codes of tires and were instantly tight. So, just not being able to prepare and practice on what you expect to race on hurt us.

“We tightened up all day, and obviously I don’t think we were as tight as the 19 (Eckes) at the end but, you know, just track position. I let him go early in that run to just go burn his stuff off and track position at the end, just aero effects… Didn’t have enough rubber on the road to outduel him.”

Zane Smith finished third in the first race of a double-duty weekend. Three-time series champion Matt Crafton was fourth after joining Eckes and Busch in a three-way battle for the lead before the final caution for a shunt involving Stewart Friesen and Nick Sanchez on Lap 219.

Series leader Tyler Ankrum was fifth, extending his margin over second-place Corey Heim to 17 points. Heim finished sixth, followed by Taylor Gray, Rajah Caruth, Grant Enfinger and Sunoco rookie Layne Riggs.


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