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Austin Cindric gets first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in duel at The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Opportunity knocked for Austin Cindric after a mechanical failure knocked Kyle Busch out of Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International.

And after Cindric and road course ace AJ Allmendinger traded knocks on the final two laps of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Cindric—on fresher tires—emerged the winner for the first time in his career.

Following post-race inspection, Allmendinger’s No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was disqualified for a rear height violation, dropping Allmendinger to last place in the running order. But fans left the track with the memory of an intense battle over the closing laps.

When NASCAR called the sixth caution on Lap 69 of 82, Brian Wilson, crew chief on Cindric’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford, made a courageous call that later proved decisive. Wilson brought Cindric from the lead to pit road for fresh tires, dropping the 20-year-old driver to ninth in the running order for a restart on Lap 73.

An immediate caution for a pile-up in Turn 1 left Cindric in sixth for the next restart on Lap 76. When Christopher Bell was knocked sideways in Turn 2, and Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick lost momentum while fighting for the second spot, Cindric charged around the outside into second place and chased Allmendinger.

It took three laps for Cindric to trim Allmendinger’s advantage from 1.714 seconds to .521 seconds, and from that point, the game was on. On Lap 81, Cindric nudged Allmendinger up the track in the carousel and took the lead. Allmendinger returned the favor approaching Turn 7 and regained the top spot as Cindric was forced wide.

But Allmendinger entered Turn 7 too wide and Cindric drove back underneath to lead Lap 81. On the final circuit, he pulled away to win by 1.168 seconds and clinched a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Cindric and Wilson had discussed the possibility of a late pit stop before the race.

“I’ve been on the other side of it,” Cindric said. “(Bell) had been pretty good all day, so it was going to be hard to hold him off depending on which lane he had on the restart.”

The only thing that went wrong was Cindric’s celebratory burnout. But it was helpful that pole winner Kyle Busch had critical issues during the race itself.

“I was kind of bummed,” Cindric said. “I broke the clutch out of it trying to do a burnout, so my guys are going to have to do a little extra work and I’ll have to buy them an even bigger dinner. We talked before the weekend, and we knew something would have to go wrong with (Kyle Busch), but I’m so blessed to be able to be here.”

After winning the first stage and pitting thereafter, Busch had just passed Ryan Blaney for the lead entering the inner loop when the upper control arm on the left front of his No. 18 Toyota broke. Busch retired from the race and opened the door for Cindric.

“As soon as KB went out, everybody’s eyes opened up, and it was like, ‘OK, here we go,’” Allmendinger said. “When you take tires like that, it’s all about getting lucky. If you get a restart where you get by a chunk of cars, it makes that strategy work—and he did it.

“Congrats to Austin. He went in there and nudged me, and that was fair. I nudged him—you race how you get raced—but that’s what racing’s all about. He deserved it. He was on it the whole race.”

With the Allmendinger disqualification, Bell inherited the runner-up spot, followed by Allgaier, who traded hard knocks with Ross Chastain, eliminating Chastain from the race after hard contact with the barrier in the carousel. Blaney and Reddick ran fourth and fifth.

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Ron Silk Survives Chaotic Overtime Restart For Second Straight Win

STAFFORD, Conn. — Perfect timing for one, worst timing for another.

Doug Coby dominated the Stafford 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway, leading the first 147 laps before a caution flew for the first time. After a chaotic overtime restart, Ron Silk was the beneficiary of some fresh tires and a daring three-wide move to the take the lead and the win.

The former series champion earned his second consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour checkered flag — which was also his 13th career and second at the Connecticut half-mile.

“We are just continuously putting ourselves up towards the front, in position to have things happen like what happened tonight,” Silk said. “A lot of times, you make your own luck. My team has improved dramatically and the guys are doing a great job.”

It was Doug Coby’s night before a crash in turn three suddenly changed the complexion of the race. Coby was fastest in practice, earned his sixth Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award in qualifying, and drove away with the race early. It was looking like Coby was going to celebrate a complete sweep of the night and his 13th career Stafford win.

But the caution changed everything.

With only six cars on the lead lap, pit strategy was key in the finishing order. Teams are only allowed to take one tire per pit stop under caution, but most of them made their way down pit road more times than one during the yellow. Coby’s Mayhew Tools team elected to take three tires, but he was also down pit road another time for fuel only. After four stops, he restarted sixth for the final dash.

Matt Swanson and Justin Bonsignore took the green flag on the front row, but it wasn’t long before Silk took the top spot with a daring three-wide move off turn two. From there, it wasn’t quite clear sailing, as Jon McKennedy was on the back bumper looking to pounce. But Silk was able to hang on for his third Whelen Modified Tour win of the season.

“I knew there were only six of us on the lead lap at that point and I thought you had to take the tires,” Silk said of the mindset during the yellow. “There were 146 green flag laps, our tires were shot.”

After restarting sixth, Coby managed to charge back to a third-place finish, while Swanson was fourth, and Craig Lutz fifth.

Justin Bonsignore was sixth, followed by Jimmy Blewett, Bobby Santos III, Sam Rameau and Patrick Emerling.

Coby leads by 24 over Silk in the championship point standings, while defending series title holder Bonsignore is third, 42 back.

The Stafford 150 will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 7, at 7 p.m.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track on Wednesday, August 14, at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the Bud ‘King of Beers’ 150.

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Max McLaughlin Claims First Career Victory at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Not bad for a first timer.

After setting quick time in practice and earning his second career pole, Max McLaughlin led every lap before Mother Nature forced the premature ending of the Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 at Watkins Glen International, declaring the driver of the No. 1 the winner.

“It’s awesome. I can’t believe it–I’ve never even raced on a road course before,” he said in disbelief. “We come here, fastest in practice–sweep the weekend. It’s beyond words, man. My dad won here, it’s always been my favorite track as a kid. To get my first NASCAR win here. This is priceless. Coming to 10 to go or whatever, I had tears in my eyes, ‘oh my god, this ain’t really happening, is it?’ […] I love this place, really looking forward to getting back here soon.”

With weather in the area, what would be the final restart was a bit hairy for McLaughlin. He briefly lost the lead to Tanner Gray, but quickly regained it before a lightning strike delayed the event.

Then, the rain began to fall. After about 30 minutes, NASCAR deployed the track drying team in an attempt to go back racing. But shortly thereafter, the rain picked back up, forcing NASCAR to call the event six laps before it’s full distance.

The win was Hattori Racing Enterprises’ second consecutive in the event, as Brett Moffitt earned the checkered flag last season in this very car. The year prior, Ryan Truex led 26 laps from the pole before being sidelined due to an accident.

Two-time winner in 2019 Chase Cabre, championship points leader Sam Mayer, Ty Gibbs and Ruben Garcia Jr. rounded out the top five, with Dylan Murry, Spencer Davis, Dale Quarterley, Derek Kraus and Colin Garrett completing the top 10.

The Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 7 at 6 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series East event, the Bush’s Beans 150, will take place in two weeks on Thursday, August 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mayer won earlier this season at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

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Stewart Friesen gets his first Truck win at Eldora Speedway

ROSSBURG, Ohio – First at last.

Canadian Stewart Friesen held off Sheldon Creed by .728-seconds in the Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway to earn his first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory Thursday night.

It was a typical Eldora night of close racing, hot tempers, and high drama on the Rossburg, Ohio half-miler. Friesen, the driver of the No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet took the lead on Lap 95 of the 150-lap race and held off the field despite multiple caution periods and restarts – before prevailing in a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag.

Championship points leader Grant Enfinger finished third, followed by Mike Marlar and Todd Gilliland. Defending Eldora winner Chase Briscoe, who led a race best 94 laps, finished seventh. Briscoe and Friesen were the only two race leaders.

“Oh man, thank you to all the race fans that stuck with us,” Friesen said in Victory Lane. “Today, this is the day. This is the week. Thanks to everybody. This is meant to be. We needed to get it done on the dirt. Thanks to everyone. What a special event.”

The race certainly had its share of excitement.

Briscoe, last week’s NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at Iowa, won both the first and second stages and was caught up in multiple incidents on the night. However, he managed to keep his truck racing to take a hard-earned top-10 finish.

For many of the usual frontrunners, the unique Eldora challenge presented new obstacles. It was the dirt debut for several fulltime drivers, including three-race winner Ross Chastain, who ran impressively among the top five early in the race, spun out on his own after the Stage 2 restart but rallied to a 12th-place finish.

Sunoco Rookie Harrison Burton, who was making his Eldora debut, dealt with over-heating during the brief break following the opening stage. He was running eighth when he spun and brought out the fourth caution flag of the night and then was collected in another multi-truck accident. He eventually had to retire his No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota and suffer a 31st-place finish in the 32-truck field.

As for Friesen, who had been a symbol of “coming so close” to victory, this was finally his career highlight night. He has six runner-up finishes in the last three seasons – including two earlier this year. A last place finish last weekend at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway had really put him in championship peril – dropping him to last among the current eight eligible drivers. Instead, with Thursday’s win, he has an automatic berth to contend for the title.

The series moves to Michigan International Speedway for the regular-season finale next Saturday.

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Denny Hamlin leads 1-2-3 Pocono finish for Joe Gibbs Racing

Thanks to a fast No. 11 Toyota, a feel for fuel economy and a first-ever application of traction compound to the asphalt at Pocono Raceway, Denny Hamlin rediscovered the magic at the Tricky Triangle that marked his spectacular debut in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2006.

Leading a 1-2-3 finish by Joe Gibbs Racing drivers—none of whom, surprisingly, was Kyle Busch—Hamlin passed teammate and race runner-up Erik Jones on Lap 144 and saved enough fuel to last through an overtime that carried the event three laps beyond its scheduled distance of 160 circuits.

Hamlin won for the fifth time at the 2.5-mile triangular track after a nine-year absence from Victory Lane. The victory was Hamlin’s third of the season and the 34th of his career.

After losing a last-lap battle to Kevin Harvick last Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Hamlin made what turned out to be the winning pass on the outside of turn 3, where had the PJ1 traction compound had been applied.

“You just want to know that you’re a race winner,” said Hamlin, who turned heads in his 2006 rookie season with two wins from the pole at Pocono. “You just want to know that you can contend for wins. Yeah, you’re looking for momentum, but you’re just looking for wins week-in and week-out.

“We really fought for it last week and came up short, so it feels really good to kind of redeem ourselves this week and have such a strong car. Once we got behind there, we were able to make up positions on the 19 (third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr.) and 20 (Jones).”

Hamlin last pitted for fuel under caution on Lap 115, after Ryan Preece clobbered the Turn 1 wall to bring out the fifth of seven yellows. All three of the JGR cars were saving gas during the final run.

“I was in fuel-save mode and still trying to get around those guys,” said Hamlin, who was running third behind his teammates after a restart on Lap 119. “When I got around them, I really went into conservation mode instead of stretching the lead out there.”

Hamlin passed Truex in traffic on Lap 142 to secure second place. Two laps later, he surged past Jones into the top spot.

“I got the opportunity on the outside of Turn 3,” Hamlin said. “Thank Pocono for the PJ1. Obviously, it could be hedged a little bit lower, but they at least gave us a second to race in today that we haven’t had before.”

Jones notched his runner-up finish after consecutive third-place runs at Kentucky and New Hampshire.

“Honestly, we started the race so far off today, I wasn’t sure how we were going to run,” said Jones, who moved up one position in the series standings to 13th and increased his cushion over 17th-place Jimmie Johnson to 39 points with five races left in the regular season. “We were able to turn it around halfway, get back in contention.

“There at the end, I wasn’t sure how it was all going to play out. It was nice to get some good restarts. Martin gave me a great push at the end (on the overtime restart after a wreck involving Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sent the race to extra laps). We were there for a second, then the top got rolling. I couldn’t really do anything. Good to get another top-three run. We’ve just got to break through. Once we get that first (win), I think we can click a few off here.”

William Byron finished fourth after starting 31st because his qualifying time was disallowed for a post-qualifying inspection failure. Kyle Larson ran fifth after starting from the rear in a backup car, the result of a wreck in opening practice.

Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10. Harvick led a race-high 62 laps, and Busch was out front for 56, but inopportune cautions spoiled their respective race strategies and left them fighting through traffic to get the results they did.

Busch won the race’s first stage, and Johnson picked up his second career stage win in the second before finishing 15th.

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Andrew Ranger Dominates a Wet and Wild Race Edmonton Show

Andrew Ranger left for the western swing with goal in mine: dominate. Following two standout races in Saskatoon, Ranger came into Edmonton looking to finish the job.

Ranger took care of that Saturday in dominating fashion by winning the LUXXUR 300 at Edmonton International Raceway. With rain a factor once again, Ranger’s No.27 Mopar Dodge wasted no time taking the lead from LP Dumoulin on lap 228.

As cautions came out and restarts were ran, Ranger continued to fend off all who opposed him. In the end, the rain came down and NASCAR was forced to call the race on lap 275. The Roxton Pond, Quebec driver lead 253 laps en-route his 27th career NASCAR Pinty’s Series victory.

Ranger ended his western swing with two wins, a third place finish and the points lead.

Since returning to the Pinty’s Series full-time Jason Hathaway has been stringing together good runs. With the rain closing in, Hathaway made a march to front. Mounting pressure until the rains came, the No.3 Kubota Canada Chevrolet would finish second. This marked the Stouffville, Ontario driver’s first podium of the season and highest finish since winning at Kawartha in 2016.

Saskatoon race one winner LP Dumoulin was another driver with a successful western swing. The Trois-Rivieres, Quebec driver  came home third after a strong run at the track he won at last year. Dumoulin will leave Edmonton with momentum carrying into this his home tack at GP3R in August.

Alex Labbe and Donald Theetge brought their battered cars home fourth and fifth, completing the top five.

Marc-Antoine Camirand and Kevin Lacroix were sixth and seventh respectively. Alex Tagliani, Anthony Simone and D.J Kennington rounded out the top ten finishers.

Following the LUXXUR 300, Andrew Ranger will enter the next event with an 18 point lead over Kevin Lacroix. The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will be back in action August 10 and 11 when they go to the iconic Grand Prix Trois-Rivieres for the Les 50 Tours Hotel Le Concorde.

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Chase Briscoe chases down Christopher Bell for Iowa victory

NEWTON, Iowa — Chase Briscoe’s been chasing wins all season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

They proved bitterly elusive — until Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

The driver of the No. 98 Ford Performance Ford shrugged off frustration and instead churned up smoke with a jubilant, long-awaited series of burnouts that preceded his first trip to Victory Lane this season.

Briscoe’s sweeping slide job past longtime race leader Christopher Bell — who paced the field for a dominant 235 laps — ensured that the physical, caution-marred race would end in a raucous celebration, not head-shaking and second-guessing.

And maybe a run toward the top of the standings, which has been dominated by points leader Tyler Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer — the so-called “Big Three.”

“It’s nice, for sure, to kind of silence everybody,” said Briscoe, who ended Bell’s two-race win streak at Iowa while notching his first win on the racy 7/8-mile track. “We definitely are still not near where we need to be, but I feel like we’ve been way closer, these last couple weeks especially. So we’ve still got to get better if we’re gonna beat the “Big Three,” but I feel like we’re slowly getting into that conversation of being that fourth guy.”

For most of Saturday’s race, Bell appeared headed for another breezy victory at Iowa, but worn-out tires doomed him down the stretch as Briscoe’s grip and gumption took over.

“He did a good job and did everything he needed to win the race,” a dejected Bell told MRN Radio.

Bell cruised to wins in the first two 60-lap stages and now has led more laps at Iowa than any other series driver (668) despite only having five starts at the track.

“I felt like we were a second-place car all day,” said Briscoe, who stayed out when Bell pitted with 100 laps to go, allowing him to pit later and run on fresher tires down the stretch. “The 20 was the class of the field.”

Briscoe — who started alongside Bell on the front row —overcame an early pit road penalty to earn his first win at Iowa and snare his third straight top-six effort after a 35th-place finish at Daytona.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Briscoe, who notched his second career series win and remains seventh in the point standings. “We were definitely racing real hard. That was beating and banging — and that’s about as good as it gets.”

John Hunter Nemechek finished third and led six laps while battling in the top five most of the day.

“To finish third and say you’re disappointed is pretty good I guess,” Nemechek said. “We needed this run after the last few weeks we’ve had.”

Briscoe’s banner day contrasted sharply with one of the Big Three’s series of misfortunes.

Custer ran in the top five most of the day until a penalty for speeding on pit road dropped him to the rear of the field.

He then hit the wall on lap 160, prompting a trip to the garage that ended his day. He finished 29th and remains third in points, behind Bell and Reddick, who finished fifth Saturday.

“I was mad at myself for getting a speeding penalty and putting us back there,” Custer told MRN after being evaluated at the infield care center. “Frustrating.”

Saturday proved anything but for Briscoe, who had battled Bell at Iowa many times — but mainly online, not on the track.

“We’ve been racing online against each other for probably 10 years,” Briscoe said. “We used to run Iowa all the time in the Xfinity car and have battles like that, so it was fun to do it for real this time.”

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Ross Chastain cruises to third victory as Truck Series Playoff race tightens

Ross Chastain made it look easy on Saturday at Pocono Raceway, but the battle for Playoff spots intensified dramatically in the Gander RV 150 at the 2.5-mile triangular track.

Pitting early near the end of Stage 2 in the 60-lap NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, Chastain regained the lead on Lap 33 and held it the rest of the way, beating surging 18-year-old Tyler Ankrum to the finish line by 1.007 seconds.

Stage 2 winner Harrison Burton charged from 10th to third during the closing 26-lap green-flag run and made a statement where the Playoffs are concerned.

Burton, 18, posted his fourth top-five in a span of five races and closed significant ground on Canadian Stewart Friesen, who self-destructed on the first lap. Burton trails Friesen by 13 points for the final Playoff position with two races left in the regular season.

But no one was a match for Chastain, who won the first stage with ease on the way to his third victory of the season and reaffirmed his status as one of the clear favorites for the series title. Chastain dedicated his first Pocono win to Kaulig Racing crew chief Nick Harrison, who passed away at age 37 after last Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

“I know we were a little mad because we lost Nick Harrison,” Chastain said. “We realize that everybody goes when it’s their time, but, man, we miss that big boy. These boys (on the Niece Motorsports team), a lot of them worked with him.

“I got to work with him at Kaulig Racing this year. Man, we miss him.

Ankrum punished his No. 17 Toyota in a futile effort to catch Chastain during the closing run.

“Me and Ross were able to run away from the field,” Ankrum said. “I thought I had a good enough truck to chase him down, but I couldn’t get close enough to him to catch the draft. I was just fighting ‘tight,’ and I burned my tires up trying to catch him.”

Short of a victory that would have locked him into a Playoff spot, Burton turned in an optimal performance from the standpoint of the points he gained.

“I wanted to win really bad,” Burton said. “We had a truck that was capable of winning. I think everyone kind of knew that… We were charging at the end, which was a lot of fun. I didn’t expect to be able to do that that well. I thought we were in trouble there on that last restart, but we made a lot of ground up and were really aggressive.

“As far as points, we gained a ton today, which is really, really good.”

The Playoff aspirations of Friesen suffered a major blow before the field cleared the first corner. Moments after the start, Friesen took a low line into Turn 1 and his No. 52 Chevrolet broke loose in the corner, collecting the Toyota of Anthony Alfredo and slamming into the outside wall.

Friesen finished 32nd after failing to complete a lap.

“Got spun around, made contact with the wall,” Friesen said succinctly after leaving the infield care center. “Just a bummer. Got on the apron there and away we went.

“I had a lot of friends and family here today, and I’m really, really disappointed. I wish I could have done more to last a little longer out there, obviously. We’ll be back—it just sucks right now.”

If there’s a silver lining for Friesen, it’s the location of the next race—the half-mile dirt track at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Friesen has more than 900 career starts on dirt in a variety of series and has finished second and third in his last two Eldora races. Burton finished 15th in his only Eldora start two years ago.

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Sam Mayer Dominates Iowa, Earns Second Career K&N Victory

NEWTON, Iowa. — The kid just keeps on impressing.

Sam Mayer earned his second victory of the 2019 season on Friday night at Iowa Speedway, leading all but eight laps from the pole en route to the victory.

“The race before the first break especially was just trying to keep the tires on the car,” he said. “I was really just trying to hit my marks the whole time. The car was rolling and I was starting to get a little bit free, but making those adjustments at Lap 100 really helped the car stay under me and helped me all the way through until the end.”

The win was also the second for GMS Racing (first coming at Bristol) who made their first full-time foray into the K&N Pro Series this year. In both events, the No. 21 car was in its own zip code.

Being a combination event, Mayer was able to earn more points than a typical K&N East event due to the higher car count. With the win, the 16-year-old Franklin, Wisconsin native now leads the East standings by six markers for the first time since May 4 (first South Boston Twin 100).

One of his main competitors for the title, Derek Kraus, encountered what could have been a monumental issue in the first 50-lap stretch. After contact from Max McLaughlin, Kraus was sent spinning in Turn 4, sustaining rear damage.

 

After starting in the rear (failed post-qualifying inspection), Ty Gibbs finished second for the third straight race. Ruben Garcia Jr. earned his best finish of the season in third, with Kraus and New Hampshire winner Chase Cabre rounding out the top five finishers.

Tanner Gray, Drew Dollar, Trevor Huddleston, Spencer Davis and Max McLaughlin completed the top 10. Jagger Jones finished 11th after late race contact from Huddleston and Hailie Deegan finished 12th after being penalized for an uncontrolled tire with under 20 laps remaining.

In the battle of the coasts, the East won. Handily. K&N East regulars (including Kraus) took nine of the top 10 spots when the checkered flag flew.

The Casey’s General Store 150 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Wednesday, July 31 at 7 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series East event will take place next weekend on Friday, August 2 at Watkins Glen International, with the next West race taking place at Evergreen Speedway on Saturday, August 17.

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Christian Eckes Makes Statement with Dominant Win in FORTS USA 150 at Pocono

Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) made a statement that he will be a threat for the ARCA Menards Series championship with a dominant victory in Friday’s FORTS USA 150 at Pocono Raceway. Eckes took control on lap 35 when the dominant driver in the early stages of the race, General Tire Pole Award winner Todd Gilliland (No. 18 Frontline Enterprises Toyota), was penalized for a blend line violation after his only pit stop of the afternoon.Eckes led the final 26 laps of the caution free race to score his second win of the season and fifth overall.

Once Eckes was alerted by his crew that he would be the leader after Gilliland’s penalty, he kept his head in the game to minimize mistakes.

“Once they told me what happened to the 18 it was all about keeping our heads down and not making any mistakes,” Eckes said. “We knew there was a long way to go and we needed to be perfect to close it out.”

Gilliland, who led the first 31 laps in a substitute role for Joe Gibbs Racing while the team’s regular driver Riley Herbst is racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Iowa Speedway, was disappointed with his second-place run.

“The blend line rule is different in Trucks and ARCA,” he said. “In the truck, we can go above the line with the right side tires as long as we keep the left side tires below it. In ARCA they want you to keep all four tires below it until your between turns one and two. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me at all to keep them below the line. I should have know it but I didn’t.”

With his second win of the season, Eckes closes the gap on his Venturini Motorsports teammate and championship leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), who finished third. Eckes knows with just five races remaining every point matters.

“We need to be perfect from here on out,” Eckes said. “Without missing the race at Salem, we’d be 150 points ahead. Without the last lap at Elko we’d be within 50 points or so. We were perfect here today and we need to be perfect every week from here on out. I’ve won at three of the five tracks and my crew chief Kevin Reed has won at all five of them so I am confident we can make a run at it.”

Self finished third in what was an uneventful race for the points leader.

“We had a right rear tire go down and we had to pit early,” Self said. “Once the field cycled through and we didn’t get a caution it evened out for us. We weren’t close to second place and we were way ahead of fourth so we were just trying to make sure we didn’t do anything to give it away at the end.”

There were four lead changes among five drivers. Gilliland lead the first 31 laps from the pole, and Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota), Austin Wayne Self (No. 32 Win Tron Racing Chevrolet), and Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Chevrolet) each led a lap while the field cycled through green flag pit stops. Eckes took the lead at lap 35 and led the rest of the way to the finish.

Without a caution to slow the pace, Eckes averaged Pocono Raceway ARCA Menards Series record 164.534 miles per hour. Eckes’ margin of victory was 13.027 seconds.

Self continues to lead the series championship standings with an unofficial 90-point advantage over Eckes who has now moved into second. Holmes is now third, 110 points back and ninth-place finisher Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford) is fourth 150 points behind.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the Allen Crowe Memorial 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Saturday, August 18. Practice on the one-mile dirt oval will begin at 10 am ET/9 am CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying is set for 12 n ET/11 am CT, and the 100-mile feature event will go green at 2:30 pm ET/1:30 pm CT. The race will be televised live flag-to-flag on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can follow live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information please visit TrackEnterprises.com.