INDIANAPOLIS— As the NASCAR Xfinity Series runs a new package this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Lilly Diabetes 250, many drivers saw a great unknown coming into the event. However, those unknowns have been minimized after two practice sessions on the infamous 2.5-mile speedway.
“I kinda had a head start on it. Testing in October, I kinda knew the direction they were going to go in. I wasn’t sure if they were going to pull the trigger. When they decided to make the change, I already knew what it was going to feel like,” said Blake Koch about his initial reaction to the package. “The track temperature here at Indy changes more than anywhere we go. When it was 65 degrees back in October, it was a totally different car.
For Justin Allgaier, the race will still provide some unknown for teams.
“I think there was a lot of unknowns. I think there still are some unknowns. I probably wasn’t as on board with it before we got here. Granted I have a fast race car. Of course, I am not disappointed in the package,” said Allgaier
The drivers and NASCAR have the same outlook on this package that it is for the fans that the sport puts on the best show the can.
My outlook on it is that for us we need to put on a great race for the fans. This racetrack, this area of the country, Indianapolis is a racing town. Indianapolis is built on that racing foundation. We need to put on the best race can. It doesn’t matter if we all drive pink race cars, we gotta put on the best race we can,” said Allgaier. “I applaud NASCAR for at least trying. At the end of the day, they spent a lot of money to make this happen. They put a lot of time, effort, and research into this. Will it fix it? I can’t tell you that will be the case. I tell you that the fans that come here, watch it on TV, if nothing else, it will be exciting,” said Allgaier.
Fans can watch qualifying for the Lilly Diabetes 250 at 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBCSN. The race will be broadcasted on NBCSN and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
INDIANAPOLIS— For the Lilly Diabetes 200 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the cars in the NASCAR Xfinity Series will have a different look when they hit the track for practice. Teams in the Xfinity garage will be running the 2016 splitter and spoiler, air ducts, and a restrictor plate in effort to create more passing and a better race.
Wayne Auton, Managing Director of the NASCAR Xfinity Series, emphasized on Friday morning that the changes were just for the Xfinity Series only.
“We did some extensive testing with sim work, we did a track test back in October before we went to the next race. This is all about the NASCAR Xfinity Series here at Indianapolis. I want to make that crystal clear,” said Auton.
In October, three teams came to Indianapolis to test the package. The drivers who participated in the test were Ryan Reed, Blake Koch, and Brandon Jones.
During the test, single car speeds were running around 56 seconds, but decreased to around 54 seconds when the cars were in a small pack.
“The one thing we did see was three cars running together once they got there cars dialed in is that halfway down the front stretch we had two cars lock up and run the single car down and pass them. We feel very confident that it will create some excitement to the race,” said Auton.
NASCAR added aero ducts in the same place where brake ducts went. The aero ducts are the most notable change according to Auton. Teams cannot make any changes to the aero ducts. NASCAR went to each shop over the past two months to make sure that the aero ducts would fit.
When it comes to returning to the 2016 splitter and spoiler, Wayne Auton said the teams still had those pieces still in the shop from last season. The spoiler and splitter were added to create some balance and wake to create some passing.
“The bigger spoiler it gets the balance back in the car, but we had to add the splitter to the front end to keep the balance there. The bigger spoiler will also make the wake. it’s a combination of the four ingredients on the car that make this package work.”
As teams look for ways to cut costs, NASCAR fully funded the effort this weekend at Indianapolis. Teams only had to build the cars to where NASCAR could place the appropriate parts.
“We supplied the ducts, the foam sealant, and all the bolts. The teams had absolutely no costs in the parts and pieces on the car. They had the spoilers and splitters from last year. We had the ducts in our possession at all times. Nobody could get their hands on them. We personally put them in every car here today.”
Auton emphasized that this was a collaborative effort amongst all partners. Auton stressed that everyone wants this package to work. NASCAR will constantly be in the garage talking to teams and sharing information across manufacturer lines in an effort to make this package work. “The teams were very instrumental in this package. They were all in,” said Auton.
After the event, NASCAR will talk to teams after the event to determine if the package was successful or not. However, Auton emphasized it will be what the fans thought about the event.
“It’s going to be hard to say if this will be a successful race or not. We will talk to fans and see what they say about it. We are very excited about it. It has been awhile since I have been excited about getting to a racetrack to try something new,”
When asked if this package could potentially be used in future races this season or in 2018, Auton stated, “Let’s concentrate on Indianapolis right now. This is a big test for us to. The results of that test in October showed it was the right way to go. We will be out in the garage listening to the drivers to see if we need to make any adjustments before tomorrow,” said Auton.
Ultimately, Auton hopes that it “is going to better than what we saw with three drivers at the test.”
Growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, Blake Koch started his journey in racing by getting involved in motorcross. At a young age, Koch went to his uncle’s farm and watched them race their dirt bikes around. Koch hopped on a dirt bike and realized that most of the day was gone. From that day forward, it was all about motorcross for Koch. All he could think about at school was going back home and practicing on his dirt bike.
In 2007, Koch watched his first NASCAR race with his step-dad. Koch mentioned that his stepdad would watch and attend NASCAR races. After watching his first race, Koch’s stepdad bought a stock car and entrusted a young Koch to drive for him. Once he drove the stock-car, the rest was history on four wheels for Koch. Koch believes that he was lucky enough to be able to drive a car.
The 31 year old was able to move to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2008. The Xfinity veteran He believes strongly in the K&N program in how it is great for developing younger talent. Koch believes it is a natural progression going through K&N to the NASCAR Xfinity Series because the tracks are bigger, the cars are heavier, and that it is competitive. He believes that it is also a great series to sell sponsorship for drivers because it not only has the NASCAR backing, but that it is a fun series to race in.
During his time in the K&N Series, Koch was recruited for the Richard Childress Racing Driver Development program in 2009. Being younger, Koch did not realize what a special opportunity it was. However, Koch believed it was the appropriate next step in his pursuit of becoming a top driver in NASCAR. Sponsorship is crucial in NASCAR. Koch used the leverage of the NASCAR backing and the development program to sell sponsorship. Now, Koch is grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the program.
For the early part of his career in the top-three national series, Koch was considered a start-and-park driver. His main job was to get to the track, don’t crash the car, make the show, and then leave. In 2011, Koch was with McDonald Motorsports. In 2012, Koch began to bounce around organizations as a start-and-park driver. Koch was unable to have team building moments due to the nature of start-and-parking. Despite the nature, Koch never regrets that time as a start-and-park driver because it was able to pay the bills and put food on the table for him and his family.
One of the easiest decisions Koch had to make was when he joined Matt Kaulig in 2016 to start Kaulig Racing. Kaulig and Koch began a relationship when LeafFilter Gutter Protection, the company owned and founded by Kaulig, sponsored Koch in 2014. Koch has high praise for Kaulig. Koch describes Kaulig as a man who does everything first class. When Kaulig puts his mind to something, he takes it to a new level and achieves the goals he set. Koch wanted to be around somebody with a first class attitude. After sponsoring Koch for part of 2014 and all of 2015, he was all in when it came to the decision to move to the newly formed team.
Going into 2016, the team knew what they wanted that they were going to be building a competitive team that had the opportunity to compete for wins and championships. In December, the team sat down and sat goals for the season. They knew they wanted to be in the inaugural Xfinity Series playoffs. From there, they knew they had to be consistent with top-15 finishes. The team was able to make the playoffs in their inaugural season.
For 2017, they came in with the same goals as 2016. However, Koch believes that this is the most competitive he has seen the Xfinity Series since he has been involved since 2011. The big goal for 2017 is to make the final four to compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
2016 was a career best year for Koch that gave him the confidence in himself and his team. The biggest boost for Koch was being able to know that he was able to do it. Running in the back of the pack for five to six years took its toll on Koch. He began to question whether it was is driving ability or was it the equipment. Now, with the support of his team and sponsors, Koch has gained a boost in his confidence. The boost came early in 2016 when Koch received his best finish of his career early on in the season. During the season, Koch and his team began to see how committed and great their team owner was. In 2016, they bought a shop and renovated it, and moved into the shop in May of 2016. Koch sees how committed Kaulig is to the series, himself, Chris Rice, his crew chief, and the people involved. With time, they believe they will become a championship caliber team.
Kaulig Racing has carried the wave of momentum from 2016 to 2017. They ended the season seventh in points and now currently sit ninth in points after Talladega. With the momentum, the veteran driver and his team are not losing sight of their goal of making the playoffs a second consecutive year. Koch believes they are able to do this because they have a sponsor who is committed so that they can focus their resources and priorities on winning races.
Koch sees the potential in Kaulig Racing. Koch sees that they can be able to get the top-fives. Koch believes that they are comfortable with top-10’s, but when they get comfortable for top-fives, then they will be ready for wins.
Koch sees the new competition enhancements for 2017 as a positive for NASCAR. He sees this as the most positive change he has seen in the sport since he has been involved. He believes that it is three races built into one to provide better overall and exciting racing for fans and drivers. Because points are extremely valuable, Koch wants to get after as many of those points as possible. As for the aero changes in the Xfinity Series, he believes that the teams have adapted well.
Koch is an active member on social media. He uses social media to create a one on one conversation with fans who have been there from the beginning to fans who have recently hopped on board based on their success last season as the underdog. He thinks that is cool that people want to interact and follow him and have interest in what he says just because he is a race car driver.
Although he is a professional driver, Koch is a husband and father. Koch and his wife, Shannon, recently celebrated their seventh wedding anniversary. They have been together for over ten years. According to Koch, Shannon has changed his world. As a kid, Koch always had two questions in his mind: Who am I going to marry and what I am going to do? Koch believes marrying Shannon and then becoming a NASCAR driver created a more “orchestrated” life. Koch is also a father of two. When he had his first child, his priorities began to change. At the end of the day, he hurries home just to be with his wife and kids. Now having a family, Koch began to focus and base his decisions on how it would affect his kids and their futures and Shannon to make sure their needs are met.
Koch is a man of Christian faith. He always strives to find his joy in his relationship with Jesus. He believes that finding that joy helps him get through life not placing value on material things. He believes that it is all about being thankful with the things God has given him to steward whether it be the opportunity to own pressure washing equipment or to drive a racecar. He is thankful for the opportunities God has given him.
At the end of the day, when the time comes, Koch wants to be remembered as the husband and father he could possibly be. He wants Kaulig and other drivers to remember him as the best driver they could possibly ask for on and off the track.
You can follow Koch on Twitter at @BlakeKochRacing. You can also follow Kaulig Racing at @KauligRacing.
TALLADEGA, Al.— Blake Koch will start from the pole in today’s Sparks Energy 300 from Talladega Superspeedway. This is Koch’s and Kaulig Racing’s first pole in the Xfinity Series.
The first round of qualifying was slowed once by transmission issues on the car of BJ McLeod. Because of his transmission issues, McLeod will be sent home. Blake Koch was the fastest in the opening round at 182.522 mph. Kasey Kahne was second fastest at 182.407 mph, Joey Logano was third fastest at 182.327 mph, Brandon Jones was fourth fastest at 182.116 mph, and Brennan Poole rounded out the top-five at 182.029 mph.
The second round of qualifying went without a hitch. Koch posted a speed of 183.490 mph. Kahne qualified second at 183.112 mph, Daniel Hemric qualified third at 182.431 mph, Ben Kennedy qualified fourth at 182.424 mph, and Jones rounded out the top-five at 192.299 mph.
The Sparks Energy 300 will be broadcasted live on Motor Racing Network and FOX beginning at 1:00 p.m. EST.
2016 was supposed to be more of a make-or-break year for Blake Koch. Just over one month prior to the green flag starting the new year in Daytona, it was announced that he would team up with Kaulig Racing for the entire NASCAR XFINITY Series campaign.
The opportunity came as a surprise as the owner of his sponsor, LeafFilter, wanted to go racing. Matt Kaulig, owner of LeafFilter, formed Kaulig Racing, aligning itself with Richard Childress Racing.
Koch, 30, is coming off a season in which he competed in every race that was on the schedule for the first time in his eight-year career in the XFINITY Series.
“[Crew chief] Chris Rice is friends with a lot of guys over there and we formed an alliance that allows us to get cars from them and the ECR engines,” Koch told Speedway Digest at Daytona. “It’s close, and everyone there has been really great to work with and helping us out a ton.”
Rice is a veteran of the sport. He has been the Competition Director at NTS Motorsports, and then became the crew chief that same year in 2014. Prior to that, he was the atop the pit box for RAB Racing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2012.
He has one career win as a crew chief coming back in 2003 with Scott Wimmer in the XFINITY Series.
Before the season started, Koch wasn’t sure what to expect. The team had not even competed in a race, but the expectations were set high. With the Chase, new to the XFINITY Series in 2016, it gives the first-year team the ability to possibly make a run at the championship without winning a race.
However, Koch doesn’t want you to underestimate the team.
“I would say to make the Chase, be top 12 in points by Kentucky and by then, we will be a whole different race team because right now, we are only two months old,” Koch said. “By that point, we will be even better and hopefully we can stay in the Chase.”
LeafFilter has played a big role on Koch’s plans.
Last August, prior to the race at Mid-Ohio, it was announced that they would sponsor him throughout the 2016 season, but for TriStar Motorsports. Kaulig scratched that deal last minute and wanted to start his own race team.
This looked to be a bold move for Kaulig, a graduate of the University of Akron. There was no telling whether or not this would be a success until the season started.
Though it was Daytona, where anything can happen, the team unloaded off the hauler at a competitive pace. In the three practice sessions held on Friday, the day prior to the 300-mile event, the No. 11 car was in the top 10 on the speed chart in two of them.
It got better on Saturday.
For the first time in his career he qualified in the top 10 at Daytona, which he thought was a surprise to the competition.
“I think we were under the radar in the offseason,” Koch said. “But I think now people know we have speed in our cars and Chris Rice has done a good job at doing that.”
Later that day, Koch recorded his first career top-10 finish while coming home with a ninth-place effort.
But the success didn’t stop there.
Currently, the No. 11 team sits 12th in the standings and has been competing in the top 15 just about every weekend.
In four races this year he’s never started worse than 17th and has three top 20 finishes. The only bad finish came at Las Vegas where he finished 26th due to an issue with the fuel pressure.
The main thing is the speed that has come out of the cars put on the racetrack. For someone who hasn’t always competed toward the front in the past it would seem as though the best shot at a first-career victory would be at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. That might not be the case for this team.
“I think everybody has a good shot at winning Daytona and Talladega races, that’s what makes it exciting for the drivers, fans, everybody,” he said. “I think that we have a good program together and I think we’ll be a threat at some of the stand alone races. Chris Rice is extremely smart, so some strategy and fuel mileage races and who knows we might get even faster as the year goes in and be able to have speed.”
This opportunity could be just what the Florida native needs to really put his career on the map. He’s raced since he was a little kid and though he believes this might be the best team he has raced for, he doesn’t know if this is his biggest chance he’s taken in his career.
“Everything that has happened in my career has led to this point,” Koch said. “I would say the best opportunity of my career was the first time I got to drive a racecar because that led to where we are now. The other best opportunity was to drive the LeafFilter car for the first time because I got to meet Matt and LeafFilter. That led to this.”
Koch has gotten off to the best start of his career. He is the highest in the point standings after four races that he’s ever been in his tenure in the XFINITY Series. In 2015, he finished 17th in the championship standings, a career best.
This year looks to be different for Koch. He has speed, something he hasn’t always had. More importantly, he is able to work closely with some of the top teams in the XFINITY Series, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones.
Because of the hard work that Rice and the less than 20 employees did over the off-season and throughout the first month of the season, this team is in a good position moving forward. If Kaulig Racing can avoid problems throughout the summer it could potentially make the Chase in its first year of existence.
That would be something to be proud of.