WS: Utah: Golden Gate Racing Team event summary

Koch and GGRT wrap road course swing, now ready for the final trio SAN FRANCISCO -- When Jim Offenbach and his Richard Childress Racing Development- Golden Gate Racing Team looked at the 2009 NASCAR Camping World West Series schedule they had...

Koch and GGRT wrap road course swing, now ready for the final trio

SAN FRANCISCO -- When Jim Offenbach and his Richard Childress Racing Development- Golden Gate Racing Team looked at the 2009 NASCAR Camping World West Series schedule they had one concern; the campaign that features the future stars of NASCAR had three road course events on its tour. Their new driver, Blake Koch of Florida, had virtually no road course experience at that time. Now that those events are complete the team would be just fine with a few more.

"We were a little concerned when we saw the schedule," said Steve Portenga, Crew Chief for the San Francisco team that fields the #21 Chevrolet driven by Koch. "Now that we have completed all of them we are starting to wish we had a few more. We did very well and finished strong in each of them."

The most recent NASCAR Camping World West event brought the team to Tooele, Utah for the Miller Motorsports Park 125. Much like they approached their first road course of the year in Sonoma back in June, Koch and the entire Golden Gate team went into the event looking for a strong finish to maintain their top status in the current series point standings. Once again, the team succeeded their own expectations.

In qualifying, Koch clocked the 10th fastest lap of the day with a 118:689 second lap to put the Chevrolet on the outside of the fifth row for the start of the event. Maintaining focus, using patience and relying on some of his previous motocross experience kept Koch in contention for the entire event in which he claimed an impressive 9th place finish when the checkered flag flew.

"Blake did an outstanding job in this race, much like he has done all year," added Portenga. "There is no doubt in my mind that his motocross experienced helped him a lot. As a new driver coming into the road courses is very difficult and there is little room for error. Knowing where to set himself up entering the turns definitely helped him. We're kind of sad the road courses are all over for the year. We were just starting improve in the areas we needed improvement in these deals."

Although the former motocross star and late model racer that hails from West Palm Beach Florida is hungry for his first NASCAR Camping World victory, Koch was extremely pleased with his success in Utah. After just his third road course event of his young career, he credited the entire team for helping him work his way into the top ten.

"I had a great time in Utah," said Koch. "We overcame some struggles in practice and ended up being a top five car at the end of the race. We had a tired go down late and that forced us to settle for ninth but I am really happy. Steve and the whole team have been so supportive of me and they have helped me in these new situations. It's nice to have that teamwork helping me out there."

During Koch's most recent event, a new voice was guiding him along the way. Routinely, Portenga acts as Koch's spotter from the top of tool box at each event. On this particular day, Koch was taking advice not only from Portenga but Offenbach as well, who jumped in and took the role of one of the most important duties on the team.

"Jimi did great job spotting for me," added Koch. "He and Steve were perfect together. He speaks very well over the radio. The two of them actually got a few laughs out of me during the race with their comments and that can ease the tension out there a bit. It was great."

Now that the road racing has been completed for the tour, it's back to more familiar ground for Koch and the crew. Three events remain on the NASCAR Camping World West Tour, each of them short tracks where Koch has a great deal of experience.

"We're ready to get down to business in these last three events," said Portenga. "They are all short tracks and that is one area that Blake does extremely well in, we all do. I'd be happy if we had another road course coming up I think we'd do great there as well."

As he prepares for the upcoming Toyota-NAPA Auto Parts 150 at Colorado International Speedway on August 15th, Koch is now seventh in the current NCWS point standings. The team has one top five finish so far in the season and six top tens out of the 10 races that have taken place. They remain in a tight battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award with fellow competitor Paulie Harraka of New Jersey.

"We are really having a good battle for the Rookie of the Year and that is great, it's good for the fans," said Koch. "I am really enjoying meeting all the fans who are showing their support for the Chevrolet."

-credit: ggrt

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