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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – In a thrilling photo finish, Christian Eckes narrowly beat his JR Motorsports teammate Josh Berry to win his first career Myrtle Beach 400 at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday night.
As the field took the white flag, Eckes was alongside of Berry are they barreled into Turn 1 for the final time. When the two drivers rounded Turn 4 and entered the frontstretch, they rubbed tires and hooked doors with the checkered flag in sight. Berry went hard into the outside wall, and it was Eckes, who won the 24th annual event by mere inches.
“Yeah, I mean we definitely did what we had to do,” Eckes said. “It’s coming to the checkered at the Myrtle Beach 400, he would’ve done the same thing. I’m just really proud of out JR Motorsports No. 1 team. We fought all year long and tried to get a big win or trying to get a win period, really. We just haven’t had any good luck and finally, we got it to come together, and we won the Myrtle Beach 400.”
Eckes continued and said,” Lee was kind of holding us up there, but I ‘m glad that we got around him there, but he raced me really clean. I pulled out of line, and he let me have the line. Man, I cannot believe this. I really can’t. The last couple of laps, we had a really good car, and it just hooked up, and we we’re able to catch Josh.”
Finishing in third just behind Eckes and Berry was Pulliam. Rounding out the top-five was Justin Milliken and Myatt Snider. Trey Gibson finished sixth, followed by Brendon Queen, Chad McCumbee, Kason Plott and Tyler Highes completing the top-10.
The Myrtle Beach 400 saw a stout 43-car field take the green flag after more than 55 cars attempted to make the race including several former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champions.
Tommy Lemons Jr. started on the pole, and he led the way for about the first 14 laps. Brian Vause only had the lead for a short time before 2014 national champion Anthony Anders got out in front. Anders went on to lead the majority of the first 100 laps of the event.
The second caution of the night came out on lap 70, when Ryan Millington and Dylan Smith got together while entering Turn 1. The contact sent Smith spinning through the first turn and hard into the outside wall.
Not long after the field went back to green, it was Lemons Jr., passing Anders for the race lead; however, Vause came back into the picture and retook the lead himself. On lap 95, the caution came out for the third time as Lucas Williams stalled on the track in Turn 1. Eight laps later, the caution came out for another stalled car in Turn 1. This time, it was Annabeth Barnes-Crum.
The field went back to green on lap 107, but one lap later, the caution flew when Jason York and ValleyStar Credit Union 300 winner Mike Looney got together in Turn 2. On the restart, Brian Vause didn’t take off, and the field behind him scrambled. Unfortunately, Matt Leicht and Tyler English had nowhere to go, and they sustained heavy damage on their cars. Both were having great nights, but English finished 36th, and Leicht finished 37th.
The competition caution came out on lap 126, and the crew took advantage of the final opportunity to make adjustments to their cars. Tommy Lemons Jr. and Christian Eckes brought the field down to the green flag to kick off the final 99 laps of the Myrtle Beach 400. The leaders were in a heated battle, exchanging the lead on multiple occasions, but on lap 148, the strong No. 27 car of Tommy Lemons Jr. suffered a mechanical failure, ending his chances at the victory. After being so strong Lemons Jr. finished 33rd.
Four laps after the restart, the caution came out for a multicar accident in Turns 1 and 2 on lap 157. The accident started, when Justin Johnson made contact with the left rear of Greg Edwards’ car. Edwards went spinning through Turn 1 and into Turn 2. While trying to avoid the spinning car of Edwards, RA Brown and Shane Lee went spinning as well. Lee was unable to continue. He finished 32nd. Brown was able to rebound for a 12th place finish.
The green flag flew once again on lap 163. For the next 35 laps, it was three-time national champion Lee Pulliam in the lead, trying to fight off Josh Berry. At that point in the race, Pulliam and Berry were so strong, and it looked as if the race was going to come down to the two of them. On lap 198, Austin McDaniel and Dylan Hall got together in Turn 1. Hall’s car was absolutely destroyed following hard contact with the outside wall. In fact, Hall’s car had to be loaded onto the rollback in order to get it off the track.
After crews worked hard to clean up the fluid and debris from Hall’s car, the field got the green flag with just 25 laps to go. Two laps later, the caution came out again. On the restart, Pulliam had to hold off Berry in order to protect the lead.
When Blair Addis’ car blew up in smoke and flames on lap 207, the leaders were bunched back up for an all-out 18-lap dash to the finish of the 225 lap event. On the restart, Josh Berry quickly took the lead away from Lee Pulliam. As the laps ticked away, Pulliam just wasn’t able to get around the No. 88 of Berry, which opened the door for Eckes to make his late run.