Eventful Day in Fontana Leads to a Track-Best 12th-Place Finish for Blake Koch

Stats:
Started: 8th
Finished: 12th
Laps:  150/150
Status: Running
Driver Points: 11th
Owner Points: 15th

Fontana, CA. (March 20, 2016)- Turning his weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. completely around overnight, Blake Koch went from 14th and 23rd-fastest in both of Friday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) practice sessions to qualifying a track-best, as well as season-best, eighth for Saturday afternoon’s TreatMyClot.com 300.

Fighting an extremely loose No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro as soon as the race went green, Koch tried his best to hold on until the race’s first caution flag on lap 11. Crew chief Chris Rice called the 30 year-old-driver down pit road for four tires, fuel, a track bar and air pressure adjustments to try tighten his machine up.

Restarting 22nd and working his way back up to 17th, Koch was still battling a “loose” Chevrolet Camaro. However when the yellow flag waved once again, this time on lap 31, Koch was able to come to the attention of his LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ team for another set of adjustments, as well as four tires and fuel.

Maintaining a position within the top-20, the third yellow flag period came on lap 47 and started to shake up the complexity of the race. Electing not to pit under caution, Koch lined up 12th for the restart with 100 laps left in the 150-lap event. Trying to pick up extra positions when the race went back green, Koch got pushed into the wall by the No. 93, killing his momentum.

Falling as far back as 21st because of the contact, Koch told his team that his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro was now “on the tight side.” Using the slight damage to his advantage, the West Palm Beach, Fla. native methodically began working his way back through the field as a long green-flag run ensued.

Making his way back into the top-15 just as green-flag pit stops began for the leaders, Koch came down pit road as well, on lap 71, for four tires and fuel. Continuing his climb through the field, Koch marched his way to 10th-place with only 50 laps remaining in the TreatMyClot.com 300.

The No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro would hit pit road once again, this time under caution on lap 101, for four tires and fuel only since Koch was happy with his car’s handling. Restarting ninth, Koch looked primed to gain a few more positions until the No. 48 got into the back of him, forcing him to tag the outside wall for the second time Saturday afternoon.

While regaining his composure, Koch was informed by his crew chief to enter “fuel-saving mode” because the race had turned into a game of fuel strategy. Maintaining a position within the top-10 for the remaining 40 laps of the race while trying to save as much fuel as he possible, Koch came up just half a lap short from the end. Able to coast across the finish line, Koch was still able to capture a track-best finish of 12th to eventual TreatMyClot.com 300 winner, Austin Dillon.

Quote:

“We were pretty fast today. I was loose at the start of the race, but after some adjustments to tighten me up, my LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro was driving good. We were running inside the top-10, just trying to save fuel at the end. Unfortunately we came up just half a lap short from getting a top-10 finish. We ran out of gas at the end but I’m proud of my guys.”

Notes:

  • Blake Koch was 14th, and 23rd-fastest in both NXS practice sessions Friday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway.
  • Koch qualified a track-best eighth for Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300, and finished a track-best 12th in his sixth start at the two-mile oval.
  • The Kaulig Racing™ driver moved up another position in the 2016 NXS driver point standings, to 11th, after the fifth race of the season, only 60 points behind leader Daniel Suarez, and within the Chase cutoff point.
  • Austin Dillon won the TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway followed by Kyle Busch (second), Darrell Wallace Jr. (third), Daniel Suarez (fourth) and Elliott Sadler(fifth).
  • Up next: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. on Fri., April 8

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