Blake Koch

Getty Images

Ryan Truex replaces Blake Koch at Kaulig Racing in Xfinity Series

1 Comment

Ryan Truex will drive the No. 11 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series, replacing Blake Koch, the team announced Tuesday.

Koch drove the No. 11 in the team’s first two seasons.

Truex, the younger brother of 2017 Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., will compete in his first full-time season in Xfinity.

The announcement comes after it was announced last week that the 25-year-old driver parted ways with Hattori Racing Enterprises in the Camping World Truck Series.

On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Tradin’ Paint,” Truex discussed the move to Kauling Racing, which he said reminds him of Furniture Row Racing, the team his brother competes for.

“Really excites me for the future,” Truex said. “I’m annoying. I’ve just been kind of floating around the past few years and bugging people, trying to keep my name out there and doing everything I can and luckily it’s worked out.”

Truex said getting the deal with Kaulig Racing was “kind of roller coaster,” with him not thinking it would get done at one point.

“I’m honestly glad it’s done and we can focus on going out and performing and doing our jobs,” Truex said.

Last year was Truex’s first full-time season in the Truck Series. He earned eight top fives, 13 top 10s and two poles. He finished the season ninth in the standings.

Koch, in his second season with Kaulig Racing, earned five top 10s and his first pole (Talladega). He made the playoffs but failed to advance out of the first round, finishing 11th.

Truex has 39 Xfinity starts since 2010. He has two top fives with a best finish of second in 2012 at Dover from the pole. That race was one of 13 Truex competed in for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Truex won back-to-back K&N Pro Series East championships in 2009 and 2010.

“When we started this team two years ago I knew we had the potential to be one of the strongest teams in the Xfinity Series and I think we’re within reach of that goal,” team owner Matt Kaulig said in a press release. “Ryan is going to be a great addition to the team and I have some high hopes for this season. Each year we keep improving as a team and I think this season we’ll be able to get some wins and make another run in the playoffs. Everyone at Kaulig Racing is excited to have Ryan on board and it should be a great, fun year.”

Kaulig Racing is part of a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

“Luckily having the Childress ecosystem around us I can go talk to Austin (Dillon), talk to Ty (Dillon), talk to (Daniel) Hemric, and get their insights and what they think I need to do or what I need to change to get used to these cars,” Truex said.

Kaulig is also the CEO and owner of LeafFilter Gutter Protection, which was the primary sponsor for Koch the last two seasons.

On SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive,” Kaulig said that Bar Harbor Sea Food, which backed Truex in the Truck Series, will be his primary sponsor with LeafFilter still involved in some capacity. Other sponsorship will be announced at a later date.

Also appearing on the “The Morning Drive,” Koch said LeafFilter Gutter Protection not returning as the primary sponsor is why he’s no longer driving the No. 11.

“I knew they were looking (for a driver with a sponsor),” Koch said. “I didn’t have time to get one, really. I got the official word a couple of days ago, but I pretty much knew in mid-December that I was going to have to figure something out. So it wasn’t a complete shock, because everything wasn’t officially done until yesterday.”

Koch said there is no hard feelings between him and Kaulig.

“I don’t want people mad at Matt Kaulig thinking he kicked me out,” Koch said. “This is a mutual thing. We talked and Matt owns LeafFilter. He was putting  a lot of his own money into having me drive a race car. You just can’t do that forever.”

On “The Morning Drive,” Kaulig said the team is adding 15,000 square feet to its shop in Welcome, North Carolina, which is on the RCR campus, and it plans to field a second car this season.

Kaulig said there’s a “100 percent chance” he’d bring Koch back to drive the second car, but added there’s no hard date for when the second team needs to be in operation, saying it may not make its first start until a few races into the season.

“We’re shopping the second car right now, but we won’t run the second car without sponsorship,” Kaulig said.

William Byron wins Phoenix playoff race, clinches spot in Xfinity title race with Allgaier, Sadler and Hemric

Leave a comment

William Byron led the final 13 laps to win the Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix Raceway and cement a spot in the Xfinity Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

On just two fresh tires, Byron fended off Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones to score his fourth win of the year and his first since July at Indianapolis. Blaney was on four fresh tires while Jones was on two.

The top five was Byron, Blaney, Jones, Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric.

Byron and Hemric, both rookies, will join Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler in the championship race. Byron, Allgaier and Sadler all drive for JR Motorsports.

With Richard Childress Racing’s Hemric in the championship race, all four title contenders will be Chevrolet teams.

Byron scored the win with a patched together pit crew. Twenty-two of JR Motorsports’ 24 regular pit crew members did not take part in the race after a plane they were traveling on to Phoenix made an emergency landing in Arkansas due to an electrical problem.

“We grinded all day, great job by this team,” Byron told NBCSN. “To make that pit call (for two tires) by (crew chief) Dave (Elenz) is awesome. This one got robbed from me last year at Phoenix. Got it back and just can’t thank these guys enough for that. Awesome job.”

Elenz said that the two-tire strategy was necessary as the team had trouble lifting the left side of Byron’s car to change tires.

Last year as a rookie in the Camping World Truck Series, Byron was 10 laps from winning at Phoenix when his engine blew. Byron didn’t finish and failed to advance to the championship race.

Hemric clinched his spot in the playoffs after a battle with playoff driver and fellow rookie Cole Custer that ended with Hemric, who only had two new tires, pulling ahead of Custer and his four fresh tires as they exited Turn 4 to take the checkered flag.

MORE: Justin Allgaier fails post-race inspection, expected to be without crew chief at Homestead

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Points standings

MORE: Race results

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Blaney led 147 laps before losing the lead on the final pit stop of the race … Blake Koch finished sixth for his fifth top 10 of the season and his best finish of the year. … Alex Bowman finished eighth in his second and final Xfinity start of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Brennan Poole was eliminated from title contention after a crash on Lap 23 when he made contact with the lapped car of Caesar Bacarella in Turn 1. A cut tire sent his No. 48 Chevy into the wall. He finished 38th. … Brendan Gaughan finished 32nd after he crashed with 20 to go. Gaughan also caused a Lap 1 caution when he spun in Turn 3 with Corey LaJoie.

NOTABLE: William Byron is the only Xfinity regular to win in the playoffs … Daniel Hemric advances to the championship race after having his crew chief Danny Stockman Jr, his car chief and an engineer suspended for the past four races for an infraction at Dover. Richard Childress told NBC Sports he will keep interim crew chief Randall Burnett and the other two replacements in their roles in the title race.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “That’s what the playoffs are all about. So intense, man. I’m so proud of all these guys. Awesome pit stops all day. It kept us with a little faith in our souls the rest of the race.” – Daniel Hemric after clinching his spot in the championship race.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series ends the season Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Kyle Larson fastest in crash-shortened Xfinity practice at Texas

Leave a comment

Kyle Larson had the hammer down in Friday’s second and final Xfinity series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

Larson covered the 1.5-mile oval with a run of 190.631 mph, more than 2 mph faster than Ryan Blaney (188.488 mph).

Erik Jones was third (188.436), followed by William Byron (187.885) and Elliott Sadler (187.800).

Blake Koch, who was fastest in the first practice session of the day, was sixth in the final practice (187.650 mph), followed by Austin Dillon (187.591), Cole Custer (187.572), Christopher Bell (187.396) and Matt Tifft (187.350).

The session was cut short by approximately 15 minutes after Daniel Hemric spun and backed into the wall, sustaining heavy damage.

“Something in the rear end broke and that was it,” Hemric said after being checked and released from the infield medical center. “It’s not ideal by any means, but I have faith in these RCR guys (will get his back-up car competitive).”

NASCAR officials tried to clean the track to allow cars additional practice time, but time expired and NASCAR was unable to add time because the NASCAR Cup qualifying session was slated to start shortly afterward.

Click here for the final practice speed chart.

Blake Koch fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Texas Motor Speedway

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Blake Koch was fastest in the first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practices this afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.

Koch covered the 1.5-mile oval at 189.347 mph, nearly 2 mph faster than second fastest, Daniel Hemric (187.461 mph).

Kyle Larson was third (187.350), followed by Erik Jones (187.207), Ryan Blaney (187.201), Austin Dillon (186.851), Ty Dillon (186.670), Elliott Sadler (186.316), Christopher Bell (186.258) and Matt Tifft (186.079).

The second practice session takes place at 5 to 5:55 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the first practice speed grid.

 

 

Xfinity Series Spotlight: Sam Hornish Jr.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For a quarter century Sam Hornish Jr. tried off and on to win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The circuit is located roughly 130 miles southeast of where he grew up in Defiance, Ohio.

Hornish started racing at the road course in his early teens. But it wasn’t until August 12, at the age of 38, that he finally conquered it in an Xfinity Series race.

In his fourth series start there, driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, Hornish led 61 laps from his third pole at the track to earn the win.

“The fact that I was able to do that this year with my wife and kids there, my in-laws and a bunch of other people that have supported me for a long time by coming out to races, that hadn’t got the opportunity to see me win a stock car race in person, that was pretty cool,” Hornish told NBC Sports.

Only a part-time driver, it was Hornish’s second Xfinity win in two seasons (nine starts) and his fifth overall.

But his celebration in August was different from when he was 25 and winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

“I had some friends from Indiana that were there who had cooked us some pork tacos earlier in the day before the race started,” Hornish said. “They made me two for after the race. We sat and talked for about 15 or 20 minutes, loaded up the motorhome and drove home and got home by 11:30. Got up and went to church in the morning. … It’s more of a relief now to win than it is sometimes a celebration, especially one that I wanted as badly as I wanted to win as Mid-Ohio. I just tried to enjoy the moment going through victory lane, hugging the kids, enjoying that with them because I know there’s probably not a ton of those left.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: What’s your earliest vivid memory related to auto racing?

Hornish: A lot of times, you’ve seen so much racing you’re not sure if, ‘was I really there for that or do I just remember it this way?’ One of the biggest things I’ve always thought about was seeing Danny Sullivan’s spin and win at the Indianapolis 500 (in 1985). The big part of that was … most kids …  you see a lot of racing, and you’re almost kind of waiting for the wreck. It’s a little bit more drama than the cars just going around the track. I remember seeing him spin and you’re like, ‘he’s going to wreck’ and then he comes out of it and he wins the race. You’re like, ‘wow, how cool was that?’ That just showed how close they were to the edge, even somebody that was good enough, had a good enough car to win the race, was that on edge that the big mistake almost happened.

NBC Sports: When was the first time you met Roger Penske?

Hornish: I’m sure that I had time where I talked to him about it or had talked to him previously (about) this. But I was about 12 years old and to kind of pay for my racing or learn things I washed trucks at my mom and dad’s company after school. I had a dream one night Roger came pulling up in this big motorhome. He wanted me to come race for him. I remember waking up and going, ‘yeah right, like that’s ever going to happen.’

I was 22 years old when I first started talking to him about the opportunity to come race for him. About 10 years for that to come to fruition. I remember probably the first time I sat down to talk to him was at his offices up in Detroit. I can’t remember exactly all that we talked about. It was a long time ago and to think at this point in time growing up thinking I would never have the opportunity to probably even meet Roger, but to have gotten to work for him for almost a decade and to have the opportunity of having him wish me a Merry Christmas or call me out of the blue to see what I was up to cause he hadn’t seen me at the track in a while. Lot of really cool people over the course of the years, but Roger was definitely about as good to me as anybody could be.

NBC Sports: What’s the most fun race you’ve ever been part of?

Hornish: There was probably in the go-kart days, there was a lot of times we’d go up to Canada and race up there. They really didn’t like me that much because it seemed like I won a lot when I went up there. So it was like they were always looking for something to pick a part, like ‘oh, your rear axles are 1/36th of an inch too wide, so you get disqualified from the heat race’ and I’d have to start from the back of the feature. That happened a couple of times at their grand nationals. I remember a couple of years in a row, they found some little thing to basically disqualify us from our heat race and have to start at the back of the feature. Come from like 32nd to win the race in basically a kart sprint race of 30 laps. I’d say those are probably some of the funnest times that I had, just because in karts you’re doing it a lot more for just the love of the sport as opposed to trying to make a living at it.

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Hornish: My first car was a truck. I had a Chevy short bed, 1500 two-wheel drive, stick shift pickup my dad wanted me to get. It’s kind of funny, because with the exception of my Corvette that I got for winning the Indianapolis 500, it’s the only other red car I’ve had in my entire life. … I remember I drove that truck harder than I probably ever drove that Corvette I got for winning the Indianapolis 500. Just because I was 16 and doing burnouts and sliding around in the stones and stuff like that. My dad had decided I should get a manual truck because he knew if I was going to be racing, I needed to be very proficient in shifting properly.

NBC Sports: Do you still have that Corvette?

Hornish: I still have the Corvette, yeah. It’s very low-mileage. I think I got 1,100 miles on it now.

Sam Hornish Jr. after winning the 2006 Indianapolis 500. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: How often do you take it out?

Hornish: About once every couple of years. Something always happens when I take it out. I either get a speeding ticket. I had an issue with one of the body panels coming off of it. With the Corvette, it’s got a molded body panel that’s the roof. There’s a structural support underneath it that’s the roll cage. … I got a recall (notice) for paint delamination on the roof. I thought, ‘it’s paint delamination. I don’t drive enough for the paint to come off.’

We were having a Halloween party for the kids so I was cleaning the garage out and took it down off the lift and went to clean it out, drive it around the street and get the fuel burned out of it, keep the injectors and everything clean. Got up to second gear and I heard this big pop and the body panel on the roof came off. I had to go get that replaced. That’s a little bit different than what I thought paint delamination meant. I didn’t know it meant a painted part was going to come off. They were like, ‘Well, we don’t really know. We haven’t seen that one before.’

NBC Sports: What’s the best advice or criticism you’ve received in your career?

Hornish: I had one my friends tell me, it was pretty early into when I went back down to the Xfinity Series back in 2012. We were actually having a beer talking about racing or whatever. He said, ‘let me tell you something. You’re too damn good to have some of the problems you’re having’ (laughs). I said, ‘what do you mean?’ He’s like, ‘if they give you a car that’s 35th and you bring it home 35th, you did all that you could do. If they give you car that’s a 15th-place car and you try to make it a first-place car and you end up 35th, that’s on you. So you got to be smart about taking what you have that day, trying to maximize, getting a little bit more out of it and you move on to the next day.’ I think if I had had that a little bit sooner and taken some of the weight off my own shoulders of thinking I was going to carry the car when it wasn’t right, I probably would have had some more opportunities.

Previous Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

Ty Majeski

Ryan Sieg

Dakoda Armstrong

Brendan Gaughan

Garrett Smithley

J.J. Yeley

Harrison Rhodes

James Davison

Jeremy Clements

David Starr

Austin Cindric

Christopher Bell

Jeff Green

Casey Mears