Blake Koch not sweating Xfinity Chase after hard wreck in practice

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FORT WORTH, Texas — If you paid attention to how Blake Koch‘s Friday played out at Texas Motor Speedway, one would assume he’d be stressed.

The Kaulig Racing driver spent the morning praising the potential of the new car his team had built for Saturday’s race, the second in the Round of 8 in the Xfinity Chase. That potential lasted through two turns of practice.

Something broke on his No. 11 Chevrolet, which shot into the outside wall in what Koch admitted was “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever taken.”

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 04: Crew members work on the car of Blake Koch, driver of the #11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, after an incident during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 4, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Kaulig Racing and crew from technical alliance partner Richard Childress Racing, including an electric saw wielding Slugger Labbe, tried to discover what had doomed Koch’s car, to no avail.

“Everything’s broke because you hit the wall, so you don’t know what broke first,” Koch told NBC Sports.

Then came the backup car. With it arrived more problems. Koch sat out the first half hour of the second practice as the team dealt with a faulty clutch line. This all occurred as Koch sits third in the Xfinity Chase standings with two races left for him to get into the Championship 4.

But no, Koch isn’t stressed. The 31-year-old driver has the perspective of eight years of stock-car racing to know what’s really stressful.

“Having 50-lap tires with a car that doesn’t handle and having to make the race or go home and not get paid to pay the bills. Much more difficult,” Koch told NBC Sports. “When you got a strong team that brings out a backup car and is (15th fastest) off the truck in a backup car. That’s not very stressful.”

But the pressure is still present for Koch, who a decade ago asked Google about the best way to become a race car driver.

Eight years after his first Xfinity start, Koch is part of the inaugural Xfinity Chase with a single-car Xfinity team in its first year of existence (with help from RCR). The native of West Palm Beach, Florida, is also eight weeks into growing a playoff beard and he’s doing all he can to ensure he keeps it until the Xfinity awards banquet in his home state.

“You’ve got momentum going, you’ve got a rhythm and you just want to keep it going to the end of the year,” Koch says.

After spending much-needed time with his wife and two kids during the Xfinity Series’ two week hiatus, Koch threw himself into preparation for today’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Every Monday, Koch practices on iRacing with the help of Byron Daley, an RCR engineer who was at Tri-Star Motorsports last year with Koch.

“You can call him my driver coach,” Koch says. “I have the ability to take really good criticism from him.”

A sample of that criticism includes corner entry and managing his tires during a run.

“If I told you everything, then everybody would know the secrets,” Koch said.

And how did Koch spend the rest of his week?

“Every second I get I’m on my phone looking at YouTube videos, looking at notes,” he says.

Koch, who has an average finish of 31.5 in 11 Texas starts, types in “Xfinity Texas” and watches anything he’s presented with.

“If you can learn one thing out of five hours of watching videos, that one thing is worth it,” Koch says.

“Google got me here, YouTube is keeping me here.”

Jimmie Johnson to start in the rear after gear change

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INDIANAPOLIS – Jimmie Johnson‘s bid for a record-tying fifth Brickyard 400 will have to begin at the back of the 40-car field.

Johnson qualified fourth Saturday but stated on Twitter that he’ll have to go to the rear of the field because they had to change the rear gear.

Although track position is pivotal at Indianapolis Motor Speedway because passing is difficult, optimists can view Johnson’s woes as a good sign. He has scored two of his three wins this season – Texas and Dover – after starting in the rear.

Also starting at the rear today is Cole Whitt (rear gear change) and Joey Gase (engine change). Whitt qualified 34th. Gase qualified 38th.

Today’s race is on NBC. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with Countdown to Green.

 

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Today’s Cup race at Indianapolis: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The NASCAR Cup Series takes part in the 24th annual Brickyard 400 today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It marks one year since Kyle Busch earned his last Cup win, when he claimed his second Brickyard 400 in a row. Busch starts from the pole for the second year in a row.

Here’s all the important info you need ahead of the race, which airs on NBC.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 2:32 p.m. Green flag is set for 2:44 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 9 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 1:55 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Carly Pearce will perform the Anthem at 2:26 p.m.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. with Countdown to Green. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network will broadcast on radio and the Performance Racing Network at 1:30 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the IMSRN/PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts 89 degrees at race time with a 15 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST YEAR: Kyle Busch started from the pole and led 149 of the race’s 170 total laps. It was his second win in a row in the race. Matt Kenseth finished second, Jimmie Johnson finished third.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the full starting lineup.

Get a humorous look at life in the pits in, what else, ‘The Pits’ on NBC livestream

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Life in the pits can sometimes, well … really be the pits.

But it can also be a hilarious look at life in NASCAR, as well.

That’s the premise behind “The Pits,” a three-part “mockumentary-style series” that spoofs the life of the fictitious SONIC pit crew in NASCAR.

“The Pits” debuts Sunday on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. After each 2-3 minute episode airs, replays will be available on NBCSports.com and also the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page.

The first episode airs during this Sunday’s live stream of the Brickyard 400, which will be televised on NBC.

Episode 1 follows pit pro Rita, who falls for tire specialist Max, but Max’s only affection is for SONIC Pretzel Dogs.

The other two episodes of The Pits will livestream Saturday night, August 19, during the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and during the Sunday, October 15 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“The Pits” is produced for NBC Sports Group and SONIC Drive-In by The Kicker, with shareable content running across NBC Sports Digital assets.

Starting lineup for 24th annual Brickyard 400

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Kyle Busch will lead the Brickyard 400 to the green flag Sunday for the second year in a row.

He earned his fourth pole of the year and is seeking his first Cup win since the 2016 Brickyard 400.

Following Busch in the starting lineup is Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

Hamlin is the only driver in the top five who hasn’t won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Click here for the full starting lineup.