After scoring his first top-10 of 2017 in Bristol, Blake Koch enters this weekend’s race at Richmond International Raceway with confidence.
Last fall, the driver of the No. 11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet qualified fifth en route to a 15th-place finish. The 2016 Spring event he scored an eight-place finish, underscoring his affinity for grassroots style racing.
“I love short tracks, so any track that is under a mile and a half, I feel like I have a better handle on for some reason,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “But we’re working towards getting our mile and a half program better also. But like I said, it’s Chris’ home track as he’s from Virgina. I love Richmond as it’s so much fun to drive. We feel like we hit on a good package there last year, and our goal going into it – I would love to get a pole. I’ve never had a pole so I’d love to get a pole, but also to qualify for that XFINITY Dash for Cash, and see if we can take home the extra cash.”
The ToyotaCare 250 will mark the second straight Dash 4 Cash event for the XFINITY Series, which rewards the highest qualified-finisher a $100,000 bonus at the race’s end. Koch feels not having the veteran Cup guys in the field is the “coolest part” of this year’s format.
“Also, it gives you a shot at some added exposure of winning the Dash for Cash and some added cash, and it’s a great thing for our series sponsor XFINITY,” he said. “It’s just a fun weekend when we have those Dash for Cash races.”
The Florida native now sits seventh in points after seven races this season.
“I believe we’re pretty far ahead of where we were last year as a team, as a driver,” he said. “Our performance has been better. Sometimes it gets hidden because of how much harder the competition is this year; some of the race tracks you have a ton of Cup guys, and there are new teams that are very competitive that came in this year. But if we would’ve taken Atlanta out where we crashed on Lap 1 and finished 10th, we would be top-five in points right now. We feel like we’ve been performing well and getting better each week.”
Beginning last September, the Kaulig Racing team zeroed-in on a setup that worked well for Koch. The last two months of the season yielded good, consistent performances.
“I feel like there was a turning point last year right around the second Richmond and Chicago, where we felt like we jumped up to a new level,” he said. “We’re still at that level, and we’re getting better at that level every single week now. You know, last year it took three-quarters of the year for me to be racing some of the guys that I’m already racing this early this year.”
Koch believes with time, the sophomore team will continue to get stronger.
“We just started our race team last year, so we’re competing against people that have been around for decades, so it’s going to take time,” he said. “We have a great sponsor – Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, and a great team owner in Matt Kaulig who’s committed to us, and to the XFINITY Series. All we have to do is focus on getting better as a team, and that’s just going to take some time.”
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