By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It’s been an unexpected break out year so far for Blake Koch and the newly formed Kaulig Racing team.
Koch, who spent his first five seasons with under funded organizations, has scored both of his career NASCAR Xfinity Series top-10 finishes this season, one of which was recorded this past weekend at Richmond International Raceway when he finished a career-best eighth.
It’s been a refreshing year to say the least, and one that many in the industry are happy to see from the 30-year-old driver.
“One of the nicest kids in the garage,” is how Greg Stumpff of OffAxis Paint describes Koch. And Stumpff isn’t alone, many regard Koch among the nicest people in the sport.
Now comes Talladega, a 2.66-mile superspeedway where anything can and usually does happen. For Koch, that could spell disaster (big crashes are a common practice at this track) or it very well may mean big things.
In their only other superspeedway start with Kaulig Racing at Daytona, Koch and his crew chief Chris Rice opted for a low risk strategy. After qualifying ninth, they dropped to the back until the closing stages of the race, when they ultimately made their move. The strategy paid off to the tune of a ninth-place finish.
The car that Koch raced at Daytona in February was Chassis No. 001, and it will be the same car he uses this week in the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega. Although the car will be the same, one thing Koch isn’t sure will be the same as Daytona is his strategy. One thing Koch does know is he wants a win, bad.
“I don’t know what approach we’re going to take yet for this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway,” Koch explained in a team release. “In Daytona we took a very conservative approach to the race to be in contention at the end, and it worked for us. But you’re not going to win races that way, and we would love to get a win at Talladega.”
After eight races this season, Koch has already set career-highs for top-10s in a season (2) and he’s on pace to shatter his best average start and average finish in any season of his career. If Koch is in position for a win in the closing laps at Talladega, watch out.
However with the new Chase format in the Xfinity Series this season, Koch has to ride a razor thin line between being aggressive and being overly aggressive. Koch enters this weekend 13th in the championship standings, 11 points behind Ryan Sieg for the last Chase berth.
“Even though we want to win, we have to take the points standing into consideration as well when we’re making the game plan for this weekend,” Koch said. “It should be interesting.”
Image: Jan Foster / Rubbings Racing