In the Fast Lane with Blake Koch

Blake Koch is all smiles about Kaulig Racing and 2017.

Blake Koch is all smiles about Kaulig Racing and 2017.

When you walk around the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage, a frequently seen sight is the smile on Blake Koch’s face. After all, the West Palm Beach, FL native enjoyed his best season to date in 2016, ranking seventh in the final points tally.

First of all, Koch’s path into NASCAR was unique in that he cut his teeth at the age of 22. Initially competing in motocross races in Florida, the 31-year-old racer transitioned to stock car racing towards the end of 2008. After the occasional starts in 2009 and ’10, Koch competed in his first full-time effort in ’11 with Pat MacDonald’s No. 81 team.

Following stints with car owners like Rick Ware and Mark Smith, Koch found his home with Matthew Kaulig’s brand new No. 11 team.  Needless to say, it’s a match made in heaven in terms of the chemistry and potential with driver and team.

Despite their early season misfortunes, Koch remained optimistic during the Michigan race weekend.  Ultimately, this is a driver determined to succeed for his family, team, his sponsor Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, and his fans. Undoubtedly, this No. 11 Chevy team has the potential to win multiple races and contend in the playoffs this fall.

Presently, it’s about maximizing results in one of the most competitive divisions of NASCAR.  Without further ado, and may our interviewee have his breakfast in hand, it’s time to get “In the Fast Lane with Blake Koch!”

Rob Tiongson :  Blake, heading into this weekend, you’re knocking on the door of the top 10 in points.  I know that it’s a season in progress, but how would you evaluate your season from your perspective, and what do you look forward to as we head into the summer races?

Koch and his No. 11 team are a hardy bunch to watch.

Koch and his No. 11 team are a hardy bunch to watch.

Blake Koch :  Yeah, it’s going good.  We’re 11th in points right now, so just out of the top 10.  But we’ve been fast everywhere, we just haven’t been able to put together a finish these last four races.

Looking back, the last four races, we got the pole at Talladega and crashed.  And then at Charlotte, we just had an off race to be honest with you, finished 19th.  And then Dover, we crashed. Running inside the top 10 in Pocono, we had a flat tire coming to the green on the last restart.

So just had a lot of bad luck, but we’ve been fast.  We’re 12th today in practice, first practice, and have a lot of speed. So everything happens in cycles, man, and it’ll come back around and we’ll start knocking off some good finishes and climb back up the points ladder.

RT :  Does it get to a point where you just kind of tell yourself, “We’ve just got to regroup, take one race at a time,” or does it get to the point where you’re asking yourself, “Man, we’re just throwing everything we can at it, and it’s just so frustrating to do this”?

BK : No, we’re not at that point at all cause we’ve had speed everywhere.  And this year is the toughest the Xfinity Series has been in the last six years, at least since I’ve been in it.  There’s a lot of high quality teams with big budgets and good drivers, and it’s tough to get good finishes this year.

The class of the field is really, really good, and it’s hard to get inside the top 20 at times.  And with the stage racing now, there’s more cars on the lead lap, so any kind of mess-up, it costs you a bigger points penalty this year.  So, it’s a little bit different, but we’re not even close to the point where we’re in panic mode or anything like that, cause we come here to have fun too.  It’s really important to our team owner, Matt Kaulig, that our race team is having fun every single week, and that’s what we came here to do.

RT :  Speaking of a fun moment, you guys scored the pole at Talladega. It was a very popular moment to say the least so far this season.  Does that make you update the checklist as far as what you and the team want to accomplish this season?

Koch realizes that the main emphasis with his efforts is to have fun.

Koch realizes that the main emphasis with his efforts is to have fun.

BK :  Yeah, absolutely.  For me, I have three goals this year.  One, to get a pole, which is checked off.  Two, to make the playoffs, and three, to win a race.  There’s no reason why we can’t win one of these things, and I’d love to bring home a trophy to my son, Carter, and also get one for Matt Kaulig.  Man, that guy has done so much for me, I’d love nothing more than to get him a trophy.

RT :  You guys have really come together in the last two years. In particular, you are benefiting from that Richard Childress connection.  At times, when you’re kind of grasping at straws, is it really helpful to go and turn to the RCR team and kind of get some feedback from them?

BK :  Yeah, it is.  Especially the drivers, for me.  Having access to Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon, to be able to go pick their brain.  They help me out as much as they can, and just utilize all the resources they have.  And Chris (Rice, crew chief) works with their crew chiefs quite a bit, and our engineers work together, so the engines this year are great.

To get the pole at Talladega, you know you’ve got a good piece under the hood.  So, our ECR engine package is incredible, and everything we have with RCR is great.

RT :  Speaking of great, Brennan Poole wanted me to ask you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind each morning? (laughter)

BK :  Breakfast.

RT :  Really?

BK :  Yeah, I wake up starving, and can’t wait to cook my breakfast! (laughter)

RT :  I’ve got a couple more questions for you.  If you could be a driver/team owner, hypothetically speaking, and you could pick any drivers past or present, who would you want on your team because you liked them, would want on your team because it’s towards the end of your career, and would choose even if they annoyed the hell out of you?

BK :  I don’t know, man.  That’s tough.  I have a lot of good friends in this sport, so I honestly can’t give you a straight up answer, because I don’t know.

RT :  And plus you don’t want them to wreck you out on Saturday.

BK :  Well, I mean, not only that.  I mean, they would probably be happy that I would pick them as my teammates. There’s a lot of them that I would choose.  There’s a lot of really good drivers and really good people in this sport.

RT :  Fair enough.  And now I’ve got to ask as well, with Michigan being on Father’s Day weekend, it’s got to be special for you.  How much would it mean to you to have that victory happen here on this special weekend for fathers?

BK :  Oh, it’d be great.  It’d be special no matter what weekend it is.  But what’s cool about this weekend is I’m home on Father’s Day, get the flight home tomorrow night after the race hopefully, weather permitting.  And I can’t wait to spend the day with my family.

RT :  Fair enough.  What aspect would you take from your street car that you could bring into your No. 11 Camaro?

Might Koch be listening to some Coolio, thus having a "Fantastic Voyage?"

Might Koch be listening to some Coolio, thus having a “Fantastic Voyage?”

BK :  The air conditioning, for sure.  Or the radio.  It would be awesome to blare some good tunes in the car during the race.

RT :  Hey, cause after all, if Ryan Blaney can win a race without having the radio working properly, maybe all of you guys should just not have your radios working!  (laughter)

BK :  Yeah.  Yeah, I mean, when you have a fast car, you have a fast car.  But he did an excellent job executing that race (at Pocono), and that was special to see.

RT :  Absolutely.  Hey man, I really appreciate you taking the time to let me interview you.

BK :  Yeah, thank you.

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Blake Koch and Kaulig Racing for this wonderful opportunity to talk racing during the Michigan race weekend.  If you’d like to learn more about Blake and his No. 11 team, “Follow” them on Twitter, “Like” their Facebook page, and “Visit” their official website!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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