Kaulig Racing driver Blake Koch experienced the highs and lows of racing over the two-day NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), culminating in a 38th-place finish. Koch earned a career-best start, won the first stage and led 28 laps in the event before being collected in a multi-car wreck on Lap 50.
“We had such a fast LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy and I feel like we really had a chance to win today,” said Koch. “I’m so thankful for my team and hate that we keep experiencing bad luck. We had some really positive things come out of this weekend, so we will focus on that as we move on to Kentucky.”
Koch earned a fourth-place starting position on Friday afternoon, his best at DIS, after finishing second in the first round of group qualifying. He fired off from the second row as the field took the green on Friday evening. Working the draft with Richard Childress Racing driver Ben Kennedy, Koch propelled to the race lead on Lap 4. He reported to the team he really like the view from out front as the field filed in single-file behind the West Palm Beach, Fla. native.
Just three laps later, Koch reported there was heavy rain falling on the backstretch. NASCAR threw the caution flag for rain on Lap 7 with Koch as the race leader, before bringing the field down pit road and red flagging the race on Lap 11. NASCAR was eventually forced to postpone the race to Saturday afternoon after efforts to dry the track were thwarted by continued rainfall.
On Saturday afternoon, the noon start time was delayed by rain showers, with the field taking the green flag nearly 30 minutes after the projected start time. Koch led the field to green on Lap 13 and was able to hold off the competition to win Stage 1 on Lap 30. Koch’s stage win, a career-first, earned him 10 race bonus points and one playoff point to be used when the NXS playoffs start.
With rain looming in the area, crew chief Chris Rice brought Koch down pit road for left-side tires only under caution on Lap 32. Since some drivers did not pit, Koch restarted fifth when the field returned to green to begin Stage 2 on Lap 34. Koch’s line was shuffled back after the restart, leaving him 13th when the caution flew for lightning on Lap 35.
After a lengthy red flag, the race resumed on Lap 40 as Koch ran 13th. Koch maintained his position on the bottom with little help behind him in his lane of the draft. Just as it looked as if Koch would be able to move to the high lane, his lane checked up, sending the car behind Koch into his rear bumper and causing Koch to rocket across the track and into the inside retaining wall, then the outside wall.
The Lap 50-incident would send Koch to the care center and end the race for the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy. Koch was evaluated and released from the DIS care center with little to hang his head about. In addition to accomplishing a stage win and career-best qualifying effort, Koch doubled his number of career-laps led in only 50 laps of competition at DIS.
Koch and the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team leave DIS 12th in the NXS championship standings and with one playoff point. The team returns to racing action on Friday, July 7th at Kentucky Speedway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!