Driver Points: 5th
Owner Points: 16th
Phoenix, AZ (November 13, 2016)- With the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) Chase on the line at Phoenix International Raceway, Blake Koch began the weekend solid in “race trim” with the 15th and 20th-fastest laps in both of Friday’s practice sessions.
Not knowing what to expect in qualifying, Koch put it all on the line, earning a season-best starting effort of fourth in his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection™ Chevrolet Camaro.
Determined to maintain the starting spot he earned, as soon as the green flag dropped on the Ticket Galaxy 200, Koch remained in the top-five for the first quarter of the race until he became “too tight on exit.”
Hitting pit road under caution for the first time in the 200-lap race, crew chief Chris Rice called for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment to try “loosen” Koch’s Camaro up a bit. However, a bit of trouble with the right front tire on the pit stop relinquished Koch to the 11th position on the restart.
Still fighting a “tight” No. 11, Koch began changing his line on the track to find the speed he needed. Running well within the top-15, the caution was displayed again on lap 94, allowing Koch to receive another round of adjustments.
Receiving four fresh tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment as well a wedge bolt adjustment, Koch restarted 12th at the halfway mark in the race and began making his march to the front of the field once again.
Sustaining a bit of damage from contact with another competitor on the restart, Koch and his Kaulig Racing™ team were not concerned with it and told him to press on. Doing just that, Koch ran 10th, silent on the radio, until he hit pit road for the last time on lap 139.
Needing to make a strategy call to help with Koch’s NXS Chase chances, Rice made the decision to go for just two right side tires and fuel, lining Koch up sixth for the ensuing restart.
Trying to maintain his track position, all while keeping the other Chase contenders within his reach, Koch continued his fight with an ill-handling Chevy until the checkered flag flew. When he crossed the finish line for the final time of the night at Phoenix International Raceway, Koch tied a previous season-best, earning an eighth-place finish after what would be regarded as his best race of the season. However, Koch’s top-10 finish came up just short of the couple points he needed to keep himself in the final cutoff point in the Chase for a championship.
“I think that was the best race of my life. That’s what we came here to do and it just wasn’t enough. Everybody that needed to run well, did what they had to do. We tried, we fought hard and didn’t make it easy on them.”
- Unloading at Phoenix International Raceway and kicking the weekend off with two NXS practice sessions Friday, Koch was 15th and 20th-fastest, but happy with his overall speed.
- Koch started a season and track-best sixth for the Ticket Galaxy 200 and ran one of his best races all season to tie a season-best finish of eighth after 200 laps.
- The Kaulig Racing™ driver lost one position in the 2016 NXS driver point standings, to fifth, after the 32nd race of the season, 4 points outside the second round Chase cutoff. Unfortunately this ends his bid at the 2016 NXS Championship.
- Kyle Busch won the Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway followed by Austin Dillon (second), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (third), Justin Allgaier (fourth) and Daniel Suarez (fifth).
- Up next: NXS 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sat. Nov. 19
- On November 13, 2016