CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Mid-Atlantic Correspondent Marshall Gabell – Empire Racing photo –
With the Championship Auto Racing Series (CARS) Late Model Stock Tour opening their much-anticipated season at Southern National Motorsports Park this weekend, late model rookie Christian Eckes is beaming with excitement as his first race in the series draws closer.
After closing out an impressive U.S. Legends Cars career with a championship in the Semi-Pro (asphalt) division last season, Eckes is prepared for his second late model race as he continues to progress through the racing ranks.
“I am really excited for this upcoming CARS Tour,” Eckes explained. “It is going to be my second late model race coming up from legend cars. I am excited to see how the new tire for American Racer works out and how the new rules work out and just all that good stuff.”
Considering it is just his second race in the late models, Eckes still is adjusting and learning the differences between the Legends and larger stock cars – a transition that has gone smoothly so far.
“Basically the weight-to-horsepower ratio is a lot different,” Eckes said about the differences between the two. “The late models are little bit easier to drive from that standpoint. Legend cars are more out of control. The brakes are a little bit different. So it is a little bit different.”
Despite his ample amounts of success the past few seasons, Eckes is taking his learning curve in stride this season as he transitions to the late models, keeping his ears open to all advice he can get.
“We are looking to just have a successful showing,” Eckes said. “[Hoping to] come out with a strong finish. It is only my second late model race and I just wanna learn a little bit more about the late models and how to race with the bigger car.”
With his focus on learning, Eckes is not setting wild expectations – he is looking for solid finishes and a run at the Rookie of The Year honors on the CARS Tour this season.
“We are just trying to get more experience with the late models,” Eckes expressed. “We are going for Rookie of The Year, we are not sure (about the expectations) though. I don’t know, we are just going to have to see how it all pans out.”
Eckes will be associated with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series team Empire Racing throughout the season – a team that has helped out developing drivers the past few seasons.
With multiple resources in the shop, Eckes is getting support and assistance from his Empire team – including advice from NASCAR Next driver Austin Hill, who competed for Empire in the Truck Series at Daytona last month.
“It is always a really fun experience with Empire,” Eckes explained. “Their stuff is just really good. And Austin Hill always helps me out sometimes with how to run the car. So it is always a big help to have them around and stuff.”
Utilizing the mentoring and gadgets at Empire, the Bethel, N.Y. native is planning to compete in multiple late model events this season with a possible NASCAR K&N Pro Series East test on the horizon.
However, there remains a lot to be situated for the young driver.
“We are trying to run about 20 late model races,” Eckes added. “We might run a couple Legend car races. We might do a couple of races at Waterford Speedway which is two hours from my house. And maybe a couple K&N tests since Empire are building a brand new car. We [just] don’t know yet though.”
Listen in to an extended cut of Race Chaser Online’s interview with Christian Eckes by clicking on the player below: