KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Christian Eckes won the ARCA Series finale along with its season championship Friday night.
The 18-year-old from Greenville, New York, had a 15-point lead on Venturini Motorsports teammate Michael Self heading into the race at Kansas Speedway. Self went to the front early in the race before Eckes, who started from the back after an engine change, methodically reeled him in.
Self still led after a mid-race caution with Ty Majeski separating him from his teammate. Eckes quickly moved into second place, then went to the lead before another caution on Lap 58.
Eckes built a sizeable cushion before nursing it the final 20 laps to the finish line, while Self gave team owner Bill Venturini a 1-2 finish in the race and the series standings.
"My emotions are pretty nervous," Venturini said before the race. "I made the comment that we've won the owner's championship, we're going to win the driver's championship, and I'm more nervous today than I have been all year. They're both deserving. I want each one to win for different reasons.
"I'm really torn," Venturini said. "Unfortunately, one of them isn't going to win. One of them is going to go home really happy, the other is not. I'm glad for the way the season has turned out. They have become friends, contrary to what people might think. They get along fine."
They're also fierce competitors, Venturini said, and they showed it all season.
Eckes, who also drives part-time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series, started out hot before an illness forced him to miss the race at Salem. He marched back into contention with a string of strong runs, highlighted by wins at Nashville, Pocono and DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
He finished the season by running first or second in his final seven races.
"I'd never raced at Kansas, don't have a lot of mile-and-a-half experience," he said, "but I was looking forward to the race and looking forward to battling with Michael all night."
Just like they battled all season. Self won a pair of races early in the season to take the points lead, then won twice more at Michigan and the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Hailie Deegan gave Venturini Motorsports a third car in the top 10 with an eighth-place run. She was making her sixth career ARCA start and first appearance at Kansas Speedway.
Defending series champion Sheldon Creed finished 11th and Harrison Burton was 12th.