Christian Eckes and the Venturini Motorsports team collected the Lion’s share of the awards in Saturday night’s ARCA Menards Series Championship Awards Banquet at the Indiana State Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) won four times in 2019 his way to the championship, which he won by 25 points over his teammate Michael Self. Eckes, who is moving to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2020, told the gathered audience he owed a debt of gratitude to the Venturini family for his success.
“I came to Venturini Motorsports when I was just a little guy,” Eckes said. “I grew up with Bill and Cathy and Billy and Emily and they feel like family to me. We’ve come a long way together and to have this success we’ve had is something I will remember forever.”
Eckes again thanked his team for their hard work and dedication throughout and up-and-down season.
“There were a lot of 2 am phone calls and texts with me and (crew chief) Kevin Reed,” he said. “None of us were happy with how the first part of the season went. In fact, I still get a little frustrated at it because I knew we were all better than that. But Kevin and the team worked hard every week and got us back to where we needed to be. This championship is theirs as much as it is mine.”
Although he finished second in the standings, runner-up Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) paid tribute to Eckes as he addressed the over 300 attendees in the Sagamore Ballroom.
“It has been a great honor to race alongside you and to get to know you as a competitor and as a friend,” Self said to Eckes from the stage. “I will always take a lot of pride in the conversations we had, whether it was just making jokes to each other or talking about how to become better racecar drivers. Although, around lap 70 at Kansas I was kind of wishing I didn’t share as many of those secrets with you. But like everyone else here in this room, we can’t wait to see what is in store for you in the future.”
Team owner Billy Venturini also spoke about his championship season, a season in which his organization won fourteen times and claimed both the driver’s championship with Eckes and the owner’s championship with the No. 20 car.
“To all my team in the shop, thank you,” Venturini said. “We couldn’t do this without you. You are the backbone of what we do and we are all proud to have accomplished this together as a team. To all of the up-and-coming drivers out there, they need to look at what Christian has done as use him as the template for themselves.
“Everything he does, he does to become a better racecar driver and a better person. He had shoulder surgery in the off-season to make himself a better racecar driver. And you know, he’s already a damn good driver and he’s an even better person. We’ve worked with a lot of really good racecar drivers and Christian, you are definitely one of the very best.”
ARCA president Ron Drager opened the evening’s festivities by presenting the coveted ARCA championship rings to Eckes and Venturini, then stayed on stage to present the Marcum Award to NASCAR Vice-Chairman Mike Helton.
“Mr. Helton has been a long-time supporter of ARCA, first as a track operator at places like Atlanta, Daytona, and Talladega, and then with ISC and then with NASCAR,” Drager said. “That support has never wavered, and everyone in ARCA owes their thanks to everything he has done for us over the years.”
The ARCA Menards Series season kicks off with the annual pre-season open test at Daytona International Speedway on Friday and Saturday, January 10 and 11. The season opening race, the Lucas Oil 200 driven by General Tire at Daytona is set for Saturday February 8 and will be televised live on FS1 starting at 4:30 pm ET.