WS: Madera: Blake Koch race notes

Total teamwork is leading to great success for the Golden Gate Racing team in the NASCAR Camping World West Series where driver Blake Koch is currently tied for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title after three racing in the tour. Teamwork overcomes...

Total teamwork is leading to great success for the Golden Gate Racing team in the NASCAR Camping World West Series where driver Blake Koch is currently tied for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title after three racing in the tour. Teamwork overcomes adversity; Koch and Golden Gate Racing Team rally to13th in Madera NAPA Auto Parts-Toyota 150

MADERA, CA -- Coming off a season high seventh place finish just one week ago in Phoenix, the San Francisco based Richard Childress Racing Development-Golden Gate Racing Team returned to race close to home Saturday, April 25 in Madera, California for the NAPA Auto Parts-Toyota 150 presented by Exclusive Energy Drink.

Shortly after his arrival to the .333 mile Madera Speedway, Koch drove the -Bay BioDiesel-Daystar Network #21 Chevrolet to the fastest lap time in both practice sessions. In the final session of the day, he turned an outstanding 15.482 second lap with an average speed of 77.432 miles per hour.

After two consecutive events in which he felt he overdrove the car in qualifying, Koch took to the Madera .333 mile track for the third event of the NASCAR Camping World West Series event with great caution. He ended up qualifying in the eighth position with a time of 15.622 seconds.

"My trip to Madera started off great. We were the quickest car in both practices and every change Steve Portenga (Crew Chief) and the guys made just kept making the car better," said Koch. "Being the fastest car there I really wanted to get my first pole. I think I put too much pressure on myself and was too worried about overdriving the car like I have been during qualifying. I ended up under driving the car and getting eighth"

With a perfectly tuned car for the feature, Koch and Portenga agreed that the best interest for the team would be to be patient and let things unfold a bit in the feature race. Starting on the outside of the fourth row, there would be plenty of time and plenty of opportunities to gain track position. The plan; save the car for the last 50 laps of the race.

"We unloaded at the top of the charts in both practice sessions in Madera and we we're confident we had a good car," said Portenga. "We were a little too conservative in qualifying by trying not to overdrive it and instead we came up a little short. All of us are very pleased with Blake's progress, especially in feedback and car adjustments. We are really working well together as a team."

At the waving of the green flag for the feature event, Koch began working his way to the front. Shortly after a restart on the 40th lap a setback haunted him for the remainder of the race. Working closely with his spotter, Koch made sure he had enough room to return to the lower line of the track on the 48th lap.

After being cleared for the move, he returned to the faster line of the track where he was struck from behind by Brett Thompson. The collision sent the #21 Chevrolet sliding sideways on the track before collecting the #0 of Paul Pedroncelli, who had nowhere to go and drove directly into the side of Koch and a caution flag was waved. The incident ended the event for Pedroncelli, but Koch was able to continue, however, suffered significant damage from both impacts.

"I was so careful to work with my spotter and Steve made sure I was good and clear," said Koch. "I got down there and he (Thompson) got into the back of me. It was just like Texas all over again. The other driver had no place to go and the car was pretty banged up but we were able to continue the race."

Despite the damage, Koch remained in the event and began working his way back towards the front of the field. On lap 112 a minor collision in turn four sent Koch into the grass, stalling the engine. Once restarted, Koch persevered in the caution plagued event, finishing 13th.

"It took awhile for the car to start back up and when it did we were three laps down," said Koch. "Despite the damage we still had a good car and we passed a bunch of cars but every restart put us back in the field so I had to do it all over again. We ended up finishing 13th. It's frustrating when you have a good car and can't take advantage of it. But it's all in god's plan for me and I am not questioning it. The team is very positive heading into race at Iowa."

Following Saturday's event the battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award is heating up in the NASCAR Camping World Series. Currently, Koch is tied for the coveted honor with Paulie Harraka, each with 36 points. Jonathan Gomez is one point back with 35 rookie points. Golden Gate Racing Team is currently 9th in the NASCAR Camping World Series.

Much like Koch, Richard Childress and team owner Jim Offenbach are both very pleased with the success the team has had so far in the season. In Phoenix two weeks ago, it was the largest track Koch had ever raced on and the first time he was faced with live pit stops. The team took home a 7th place finish in that event. Saturday's race in Madera was the first time they finished out of the top ten in the series and despite the difficulties, only placed three positions off that mark.

"I am very proud of how this team is coming together, we are show progress after each race," said Offenbach. "These kind of races and results are going to happen. I am very confident that our team is doing all they can to minimize these races by having a top car and always making smart decisions. We will be ready next month."

-credit: ggrt

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Drivers Paulie Harraka , Steve Portenga , Brett Thompson , Blake Koch