By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter & NASCAR Contributor
FORT WORTH, Texas — Blake Koch’s roller coaster weekend at Texas Motor Speedway ended with him still in contention for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship following a 14th place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
The driver of the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro qualified 12th this morning after crashing hard in the opening practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series yesterday.
He fell a lap down early in the 200-lap race as race leader Brad Keselowski set a blistering pace up front. Despite falling a lap down, he managed to run inside the top-15.
His luck turned around on lap 72 when Ray Black, Jr. spun in Turn 4. Koch was the beneficiary of the free pass and got back on the lead lap.
Once back on the lead lap, Koch hung on to the top 15 throughout race’s midsection. The fifth and final yellow flag of the day flew on lap 167 and set up a 30 lap dash to the end of the race. Koch restarted in 15th place, right behind satellite teammate Brendan Gaughan.
Koch ran behind Gaughan for much of the final run but made his way around the No. 62 South Point Chevrolet Camaro inside the final ten laps to finish in 14th place.
“It was an up and down weekend,” Koch told the Motorsports Tribune. “We went to a backup, but we rebounded nicely. My team never gave up, finished in the top 15 and we’re still in contention to go to Phoenix and have a real shot at it, like a real shot.”
The position earned on Gaughan now puts Koch 4th in points, just a single point ahead of Justin Allgaier for the final transfer spot in the Chase for the Xfinity Championship.
Koch praised Gaughan for racing him clean for 14th place given his position in The Chase standings.
“Every point matters, you’re going to push as hard as you can,” he said.
“It was really nice for him to race me really, really clean and I really appreciate that out of Brendan and Ty Dillon because I’m in a tight points battle to make the Final Four.”
Despite being in a really tight points position, Koch feels relaxed heading into the penultimate round of the season next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway and trying to keep the same relaxed mindset that has carried him this far while trying to improve his race craft.
“All nervousness went away after Chicago after we made the chase,” he said. “Once the chase started and Matt Kaulig said ‘Dude have fun no pressure,’ anything from here is just icing on the cake. That’s been a good mindset to have to come here and just try to improve as a driver, trying to get better at passing lapped cars, pit stops, all of that stuff and not think about the points but When we do that and we’re still in the chase so it’s working.”