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.”