Toyota Racing development driver Christian Eckes captured his first ARCA Menards Series championship after winning the season finale event at Kansas Speedway on Friday evening. Eckes is the sixth driver to run a Toyota to clinch an ARCA Menards Series championship, joining the group of previous champions including Sheldon Creed, Austin Theriault, Frank Kimmel, Patrick Sheltra and Justin Lofton.
“This is huge,” said Eckes. “Not really knowing what I’m going to do next year, hopefully, this is a little bit of an added bonus. We fought really hard all year, not just this race. But even this race, we fought really hard, and it kind of summed up our year. Our ability to bounce back from things is incredible. Kevin Reed (crew chief) and all of these guys do an excellent job, and we’ve done this so many times over the year – come back from starting last or missing a race. It’s great to be a champion, and really looking forward to celebrating it.”
After missing the third race of the season at Salem Speedway due to illness, Eckes has climbed from behind in the points chase as teammate Michael Self led for most of the season. Just two races after missing the event at Salem Speedway, Eckes drove to his first win of the season at Nashville Speedway and has added three more victories throughout the season to take his career total to seven. Eckes also leads the series with an average finish of fifth and becomes the second Toyota driver to capture a driver’s championship this season along with CJ Greaves (Lucas Oil Midwest Short Course League Pro 4).
“It’s great to watch a Toyota Racing development driver achieve so much success at such a young age,” said Paul Doleshal, group manager, motorsports and asset management, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “Christian has been successful across many different track types in the ARCA Menards Series and we are excited to help him celebrate this achievement.”
Earlier this year, Toyota clinched the manufacturer’s championship and finished the season with a combined 17 race wins.