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GGRT at Infineon; O'Keefe to join Koch in secondary team car SONOMA -- The entire Golden Gate Racing Team is geared up for action at the track closest to home this Saturday, June 20 as the ...

GGRT at Infineon; O'Keefe to join Koch in secondary team car

SONOMA -- The entire Golden Gate Racing Team is geared up for action at the track closest to home this Saturday, June 20 as the #21 of Blake Koch will make its first road course appearance of the 2009 NASCAR Camping World West season. The San Francisco based Richard Childress team will field two cars for this event with secondary driver Pat O'Keefe behind the wheel of the GGRT #31 Bay BioDiesel Chevrolet for the Bennett Lane Winery 200 presented by Supercuts.

"Golden Gate Racing and Richard Childress are excited to be bringing both cars to Infineon," said team owner Jim Offenbach. "Pat O'Keefe has been a great partner to this team and it's always a pleasure to get him behind the wheel. Blake and the entire team are looking forward to this."

O'Keefe is the Vice President of Golden Gate Petroleum and Bay Bio Diesel, a key sponsor to the Golden Gate Racing Team since 2007. In 2004 O'Keefe was the Modified Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Driver at Altamont Raceway when he finished as the runner up to the season championship after advancing from a career in shifter kart racing. In addition to racing cars, O'Keefe has been racing jet skis since the age of 14. the Pleasant Hill resident won the International Jet Sports Boating Association State Novice Championship in 1992 and 1993.

Shortly after his partnership with Golden Gate Racing Team was born, O' Keefe was encouraged by Offenbach and the team to test drive the #31 GGRT Chevrolet at Altamont . After posting lap times that would have earned him a top spot in the most recent event at the facility he accepted the team's offer to run the secondary car on a limited schedule in 2008 and 2009. This weekend, O'Keefe will join Koch on the eleven turn Infineon Raceway.

"I'm really excited for this upcoming race," said O'Keefe. "I look forward to a strong finish along with Blake."

Saturday's event is the 7th segment of the 13-race NASCAR Camping World West Campaign. So far Koch has driven the Chevrolet to 9th in the series point standings and is tied for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award with Paulie Harraka of New Jersey . As the series stretches past the halfway point, Infineon will be the first of three road course events on the tour. For Koch, it will be the first time he has ever raced on a road course.

"I have absolutely no road course experience in a stock car, sports car or a even a go kart," said Koch, who's young career includes late models, speedway trucks and motocross. "I am really praying to God for a natural transition this weekend."

Throughout the season, Koch has developed a strong relationship with GGRT Crew Chief Steve Portenga. A former driver himself, Portenga has worked closely with Koch to develop his skills behind the wheel. It is this type of teamwork that illustrates what Richard Childress Racing Driver Development program is all about, developing the future stars of NASCAR and Koch is listening week after week.

"I really don't know what to expect," said Koch. "All I know is that Golden Gate Racing and Richard Childress provide the best equipment out there. I know that Steve will help me out big time like he has at all the other tracks new to me."

Koch has adapted to many tracks this season during his tenure with the Golden Gate Racing Team. While most of his new ventures have brought him to tracks much larger than he has raced on before, Infineon is a whole new venue and will throw more than 640 twists and turns his way during the race. Despite the challenge ahead, Koch has faith he will succeed.

"This race is pretty close to home for this team and its sponsors. I would love to get a good finish for them," said Koch. "I am going to do the best that I can. God has my back. So I am sure we will do just fine."

Since round six in Roseburg , Oregon just two weeks ago, Portenga has been busy in Golden Gates' Bakersfield based stable preparing both cars for this upcoming race. The veteran wrench is confident that his driver will adapt well on Saturday and that both cars will be well prepared.

"Blake has been adapting all year long and throwing him on a road course at this stage is going to be good for his learning curve," said Portenga. "I am confident we will give him a good car. Jim ( Offenbach ) always gives us the right tools to succeed. The key to our success this weekend will be keeping it on the black stuff and not braking anything."

-credit: ssrt

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Drivers Paulie Harraka , Steve Portenga , Blake Koch
Teams Richard Childress Racing