McAnally-Hilgemann Racing will have a new duo in their Chevrolet Silverado RSTs for the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. On Tuesday, the team announced Christian Eckes will pilot the #19 Silverado while Jake Garcia competes for Rookie of the Year honours in the #35.
Eckes joins Chevrolet after spending the last five years with Toyota. Driving for ThorSport Racing, he made the 2022 Truck playoffs and finished eighth in the standings with fifteen top tens and a pair of runner-ups at Texas and Gateway. It was his second full season in the Trucks after anotjer eighth-place placement in the 2020 standings for Kyle Busch Motorsports and sharing a truck with Grant Enfinger at ThorSport the following year. The part-time stint saw him score his first career win at Las Vegas.
“It’s a true pleasure for me to be a part of MHR, the NAPA Racing family, and to contribute to growing this programme into a championship-calibre organisation,” said Eckes. “That’s what Bill (McAnally, owner), the team, and I have set out to achieve and I believe he has assembled a group that can make that goal a reality.”
Garcia made his Truck début with a five-race slate in MHR’s #35. After missing his first intended start at Martinsville due to qualifying being rained out, he raced at Gateway (finished twenty-ninth), IRP (twenty-eighth), Richmond (twentieth), Bristol (twenty-second), and Phoenix (sixteenth). The truck was a new addition for the team, who was already fielding the #19 and #91, and the latter’s owner points will be transferred to the #35 to ensure it can run every race.
The 17-year-old is the youngest champion of the Southern Super Series when he won the title in 2021. He is also a two-time champion at Five Flags Speedway with a Pro Late Model crown in 2019 followed by the Super Late Model two years later.
As Garcia is not yet eighteen years of age, he is ineligible to run the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. MHR did not immediately reveal who will drive the #35 in his place, though missing the race will not impact Garcia’s playoff eligibility.
“To have the chance to race full-time at this level is very special to me and my family,” Garcia stated. “This is a huge opportunity for me, and I wish we could start the season tomorrow. Coming from super late models to the Craftsman Truck Series, there’s a lot of details and situations I need to experience, and hopefully we can learn each week and consistently improve throughout the year. There’s a ton of sharp people and valuable resources at MHR and Chevrolet to learn from, and I’m excited to take advantage of those and be a teammate with Christian.”
The Eckes/Garcia duo replace Derek Kraus and Colby Howard. Kraus finished eleventh in the 2022 standings and Howard seventeenth. Neither have revealed their 2023 plans.