Kaulig Racing driver Blake Koch scored a career-best NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) finish of seventh at Road America on Sunday in the 45-lap Johnsonville 180. The West Palm Beach, Fla. native started the event 15th and scored a stage point in Stage 2 of the race.
“It was just such a fun weekend being able to drive such a fast No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy at the last road course race of the season,” said Koch. “I’m proud of our team and happy to earn a team-best finish for Matt Kaulig and all of our hardworking team members at Kaulig Racing. We are progressing every week and need to stay consistent to secure our place in the playoffs.”
The team finished sixth and 11th, respectively, in Saturday’s two practice session. Koch and the team felt confident about the handling of the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy headed into Sunday morning’s qualifying session. As qualifying approached, scattered rain showers took over the track, ultimately cancelling the session and lining the field up by owner’s points, with Koch in 15th.
Koch took the green flag for Stage 1 from the 15th position under sunny skies at the 4.048-mile road course. He settled into the 16th position before the caution was displayed for the first time on Lap 4. He reported to the team that the car was really tight through the corners. Crew chief Chris Rice brought Koch down pit road under the caution for four fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. As one of only a handful of cars who visited pit road, Koch restarted 25th when the field returned to green on Lap 7 with three laps remaining in Stage 1.
Koch continued to fight the handling of the No. 11 machine through the end of Stage 1, reporting to the team that the car would not turn. He finished Stage 1 in the 29th position before making a visit to pit road for a wedge adjustment, fuel and a windshield tear off. He restarted 23rd on Lap 12 to begin Stage 2.
The caution flag was displayed on Lap 13 as Koch had raced his way up to 18th. He reported to the team that the wedge adjustment seemed to have helped the car’s turn. He restarted 16th on Lap 16. Shortly after the restart, he reported that he was still having trouble getting into and out of the corners. He managed to persevere to finish Stage 2 in the 10th position, earning one bonus point.
Under the caution, Koch visited pit road for fresh tires, fuel and a spring rubber adjustment. He started the final stage of the race in the 22nd position on Lap 23.
As the laps clicked by in the final stage, many drivers were forced to pit for fuel before Koch, cycling him up to the third position with 13 laps remaining in the event. Finally with eight laps remaining, Koch visited pit road for the final time for fresh tires and fuel.
In the closing laps, Koch raced his way through the field to score a seventh-place finish at Road America, a career-best in his 203rd NXS start. Koch’s previous career-best finish was eighth.
Koch and the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team leave Road America 10th in the NXS championship standings. The team returns to racing action Saturday, September, 2nd, 2017 at Darlington Raceway for throwback weekend.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!