Blake Koch, GGRT All-Star preview

Blake Koch and the Golden Gate Racing Team are geared up for upcoming Toyota Showdown at Irwindale SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The San Francisco based Golden Gate Racing Team is locked and loaded in preparation for the upcoming NASCAR Toyota ...

Blake Koch and the Golden Gate Racing Team are geared up for upcoming Toyota Showdown at Irwindale

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The San Francisco based Golden Gate Racing Team is locked and loaded in preparation for the upcoming NASCAR Toyota Showdown event in Irwindale later this month. The January 23-24th event will mark the first event of the season for the Richard Childress Development team that recently signed Florida native Blake Koch as its primary driver of the sponsored Chevrolet owned by San Francisco businessman Jim Offenbach.

The Toyota All-Star Showdown is a non-points, all-star race that brings together the top drivers in NASCAR's Development series. The main event, contested in NASCAR Camping World Series Cars, is open to any driver approved to drive on a half-mile or longer tracks in the NASCAR Camping World Series. Considered to be the "Daytona 500 of Short-Track Racing," this race is a chance for the Camping World Series drivers to showcase their talent in the biggest event of the year. Last year fifty-one drivers attempted to qualify for the forty starting positions and this year the event is slated to be televised live on Speed TV, providing valuable exposure to the rising stars of stock car racing from throughout the country.

With Koch as the new wheelman of the Golden Gate Racing #21 and as their primary sponsor, the Golden Gate Racing Team is eager to hit the track for the event that is known as "The Daytona 500 of short track racing." This will mark Koch's second time behind the wheel with GGRT following his debut last fall at All American Speedway.

Following NASCAR's recent announcement to limit testing opportunities in 2009, Koch and the Golden Gate crew traveled to Irwindale during the final week of December to test for the upcoming event. The new limitations imposed by NASCAR are geared to save money in stressful economic times but at the same time add new challenges to those drivers new to the division that have little experience on certain tracks. With Golden Gate's experienced staff and Koch's determination and talent behind the wheel the team appears to be a serious contender for the upcoming showdown.

"The new policy kind of throws an obstacle at us right at the start," said Steve Portenga, crew chief for GGRT. "With our knowledge of these tracks as a team we should do just fine. Blake listens extremely well and that's really important to a team.."

While many teams are still building cars and wrapping up sponsorship deals during the holidays, Portenga, Koch and the GGRT crew were hard at work, taking to the Irwindale half mile for what would be their final testing session prior to the event. For both Koch and the team, the day of testing proved successful and worthwhile.

"I would say the test went great at Irwindale,," said Koch, who raced Late Models and Trucks successfully or two years prior to joining GGRT. "The times weren't as good as I would have liked them to be, but I believe the car has a few tenths left in it. I spent a lot of the time just trying to learn the track. It was a much different track than I have ever been to. Now that I know the track and had a few days to sit and think about it. I will be able to go back out there and push the car a little more on the edge to pick up the time."

Offenbach's Golden Gate Racing Team is known for its great preparation. The entire crew is credited for the team's success through the years. Their attention to detail and ability to communicate as a team will undoubtedly be the key to their success in the year to come. Koch credited Portenga for his insight following the recent testing.

"Steve and I have talked a little about how the test went, we both feel we will be good for the showdown," added Koch. "Just a few tweaks to the car and a few tweaks to my driving and we will be right up front. Not only is Steve doing a great job setting up the car, but he is also helping me a ton with my driving."

Due to commitments with his San Francisco based business, Golden Gate Meat Company, Offenbach was absent from the recent Irwindale testing session. Following his review of Koch's times and Portenga's post test reports both Offenbach and Richard Childress are very optimistic about the upcoming event and the season ahead with Koch behind the wheel.

"We're really happy with the results following the test at Irwindale last week," said Offenbach. "After reviewing the times I think Blake and the crew are ready to go for the 2009 season. Everyone on this team does their job well and they all work well together and that's what it takes to win races. The outlook is very positive heading to the showdown with as our new sponsor and our longtime sponsor Pat O'Keefe and Bay Bio Diesel; I have to give a big thanks to them for all of their support."

The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown will feature two days of exciting action among some of the nation's greatest short-track drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition. Both nights of all-star action will be aired live on SPEED, which has broadcast the event for the last five years. Broadcasts will begin at 7 p.m. PT each night. A full day of on-track activity kicks off for the NASCAR Camping World Series on Friday, Jan. 23 with practice and qualifying, leading up to the 250-lap feature race on Saturday, Jan. 24.

During both days watch for Blake Koch behind the wheel of the -- Bay Bio Diesel sponsored #21 Chevrolet as he looks for his first victory with the Golden Gate Racing Team. Koch will be joined in the garage and on the track by Austin Dillon of Clemmons, North Carolina. 18-year-old Dillon will represent the Eastern division of the RCR Racing Driver Development Program. Dillon finished second in the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Eastern Series.

"The Showdown is a good opportunity for Blake to showcase his talent with the best of drivers of the series," said Richard Childress, President and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "But we're looking ahead at the big picture when the Camping World Series opens in Texas on March 14th. But this event will give Blake more experience with some great drivers from both the East and the West Series."

Thirteen drivers have already secured a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown by winning a NASCAR Camping World Series race this past year. In addition, champions of each of NASCAR's developmental series also earned secured spots in the event.

Other positions in the starting lineup will be determined through time trials, which are slated for 6 p.m. PT on Friday, and limited provisionals for NASCAR Camping World Series regulars. Rounding out Friday's activity for the NASCAR Camping World Series will be a "Last Chance Open" race at 9:10 p.m. PT that provides drivers one final opportunity to make the final 40-car starting grid for Saturday's feature race.

Prior to the upcoming race, Koch and members of the Golden Gate Racing Team will travel to North Carolina Monday to attend Media Day in the company of several fellow RCR team drivers. Among the attendees will be Kevin Harvick, Clint Boyer and Jeff Burton to name a few. The event brings NASCAR's top talent together with members of the media as they tour various facilities including those of RCR, Hendrick Motorsports and more.

-credit: ggrt

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About this article
Drivers Jeff Burton , Kevin Harvick , Steve Portenga , Austin Dillon , Blake Koch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Hendrick Motorsports