Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Resilient Blake Koch Rallies to Top-15 in Texas

Resilient Blake Koch Rallies to Top-15 Finish in Texas

The Young NASCAR Team that Could

Resilient Blake Koch Rallies to Top-15 Finish in Texas


  • Started: 12th
  • Finished: 14th
  • Laps: 200/200
  • Status: Running
  • Driver Points: 4th
  • Owner Points: 16th

Fighting adversity as soon as the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) hit the track at Texas Motor Speedway Friday afternoon, Blake Koch suffered a brutal crash on his first lap on track when something broke in the right front of his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro.

Never missing a beat, the Kaulig Racing™ crew pulled Koch’s backup car off the hauler and began getting it ready for final practice. Able to work a few bugs out of the backup Chevrolet, the No. 11 team turned it’s focus to dialing in Koch’s Camaro in the second session, where he wound up 17th-fastest.

Looking to turn his luck around, Koch took to the track Saturday morning and secured a track-best qualifying effort of 12th for that afternoon’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

Wanting to keep the momentum alive, Koch quickly made his way all the way up to seventh when the green flag dropped for the start of the 200-lap event. However, after running a few hard-charging laps, Koch began to feel the damage being done to his right front tire. Under green on lap 40, Koch made the decision that he needed to pit before his right front tire shredded, causing more harm.

Hitting pit road for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment to help “loosen up” his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro, Koch returned to the track one lap down to the leaders in 29th. (At this point NASCAR Race Mom’s heart fell as she felt Koch’s chances of advancing to the round of four slipping away.)

Thankfully though, green flag pit stops cycled through completely for the leaders just a few laps later, allowing Koch to not only get his lap back but positioned him back in the top-15 running order.

As the green flag run ensued however, Koch was in jeopardy of going back a lap down to the leaders running on a few-lap older tires. Trying to put up a fight to remain on the lead lap, Koch battled with the leaders as best as he could. Just as he was placed a lap down though, a well-timed caution came out on lap 72 allowing Koch to be the beneficiary of the “free pass” and put back on the lead lap.

Coming down pit road under caution for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment to “tighten” his entry back up, Koch was scored 14th on the restart, but ultimately had to start at the rear of the field due to getting his lap back.

Working his way through lap traffic, the caution flag waved again, this time on lap 92, allowing Koch to catch back up to the lead lap cars. Crew chief Chris Rice elected to bring the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro back down pit road for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to aid in Koch’s corner exit.

Resilient Blake Koch Rallies to Top-15 Finish in Texas
Restarting 14th, Koch worked his way to right outside the top-10 when he radioed to his Kaulig Racing™ crew that he felt like he was “abusing the right front” again. About 10 laps away from having to come to pit road under green, the yellow flag was displayed on lap 135.

Making his way to the attention of his pit crew under caution, Koch received another set of sticker tires and fuel. However, Koch was caught for a pit road speeding penalty, relinquishing him to the rear of the field for the ensuing restart with 59 laps remaining in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

Trying to make up as much track position as possible, Koch had made his way within striking distance of the lead lap cars when the final caution of the race came out on lap 167.

Restarting 15th with a fresh set of tires and 30 laps to go, Koch rallied his way to a track-best 14th-place finish, keeping himself still inside the Chase cutoff point heading to Phoenix International Raceway. .

“I feel like we’re still in a dream. Every time we’re done with these races we’re still in the Chase. Since Chicago, we’ve never been out of the Chase. There’s only one more race to go. We now get to go race one of my really good friends for the final spot at Phoenix.” 

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