Sporting a throwback paint scheme reminiscent of Darrell Waltrip’s 1985 red and white championship-winning car, Kaulig Racing driver Blake Koch finished 11th at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, a track-best finish for the West Palm Beach, Fla. native.
“What an awesome weekend at Darlington Raceway for our No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team,” said Koch. “I think we had the best-looking throwback paint scheme out there and can’t thank Darrell Waltrip enough for coming out to support us. We made some huge gains in the points today and just had an overall satisfying weekend. We will carry this momentum into Richmond next week and through to the cutoffs for the playoffs in Chicago!”
The team finished 18th and 15th, respectively, in Friday’s two practice sessions. Koch focused on race runs and felt confident about the long-run speed of the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevy. Koch settled into an 18th-place starting position after Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session with the focus on the 147-lap Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.
With Darrell Waltrip watching on, Koch took the green flag on Saturday afternoon from the 18th position before the field was slowed by caution before a lap was completed. Koch had moved up to 16th by the end of that first lap and would restart there on Lap 5. He continued to gain momentum and was scored 13th by the next caution on Lap 9. He restarted 13th on Lap 12 and settled into a long-run until Lap 31 when the caution was again displayed. At that time, Koch ran 15th and reported to the team that the rear tires were starting to slip, signaling they were becoming worn. He restarted 15th with 10 laps remaining in Stage 1, eventually taking the stage flag from the 16th position.
Crew chief Chris Rice brought Koch down pit road under the caution period at the end of Stage 1 for four fresh tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments. After the adjustments, Koch restarted 20th on Lap 51 to begin Stage 2.
Soon after the start of Stage 2, Koch made his way up to the 18th position. He radioed into the team on Lap 64 that the car’s handling had turned to being very loose, especially into Turn 3. He maintained the 18th position through the Lap 70 caution period, again reporting that the car was too free. Koch continued to fight loose conditions after the restart, eventually crossing the finish line for the end of Stage 2 in the 21st position.
Under the caution period, Rice brought Koch down pit road to reverse the previous adjustment. Koch left the pits with wedge and air pressure adjustments, fresh tires, and fuel to restart 16th on Lap 96.
Two laps after the final stage began, the race fell under caution as Koch had made his way up to 14th. He maintained the 14th position after the restart and ran there until the caution flew with 11 laps to go in the race. Under the caution period, the team elected to come down pit road to put fresh tires on the No. 11 machine to carry Koch to the end. He restarted 13th with six laps to go at Darlington Raceway. One final caution would be displayed with four laps to go, as Koch ran 13th. He restarted 12th with two laps remaining, but made the pass for 11th and held off his opponents to earn an 11th-place finish at Darlington Raceway. His previous track-best finish was 18th, which came in 2011.
Koch and the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection team leave Darlington Raceway eighth in the NXS driver standings and 44 points ahead of the playoff cutoff line. The team returns to racing action Friday, September 8, 2017 at Richmond International Raceway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!