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.”

Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick reigns going into All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick‘s dominance of his Cup competitors continues in this week’s NBC Sports power rankings, as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is the unanimous No. 1 driver for the second week in a row.

That comes after Harvick placed fourth at Kentucky Speedway in a race won by rookie Cole Custer.

Fourteen drivers earned votes this week following a weekend of four NASCAR races, including two Xfinity Series events.

Here is this week’s top 10:

 1. Kevin Harvick (30 points): Fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five finish. Last week: First.

 2. Aric Almirola (22 points): While Almirola finished eighth, he led a career-best 128 laps, won Stage 1 and earned his sixth consecutive top-10 finish. Last Week: Second.

(Tie) 3. Cole Custer (19 points): Custer became the first rookie of the year candidate to win a Cup race since 2016 and the first 2020 rookie to score consecutive top fives with his win. Last week: Ninth.

(Tie) 3. Matt DiBenedetto (19 points): Earned his second top five of the year and his second top 10 in three races. DiBenedetto has earned points in the last eight stages. Last week: Unranked.

(Tie) 5. Brad Keselowski (16 points): His ninth-place finish was his 10th top 10 in the last 12 races, but he didn’t earn any applause from Jimmie Johnson after contact spun Johnson. Last week: Third.

(Tie) 5. Martin Truex Jr. (16 points): Runner-up finish marked his fifth top 10 in the last eight races. Last week: Unranked.

 7. Austin Cindric (12 points): The Xfinity driver dominated his series’ doubleheader in Kentucky and came away with his first oval track wins in NASCAR. Last Week: Unranked.

 8. Kurt Busch (8 points): Placed fifth for his first top five since the second Charlotte race in May. Last Week: Unranked.

 9. Denny Hamlin (7 points): Forgettable day at Kentucky. On to the All-Star race at Bristol. Last week: Fourth.

 10. Tyler Reddick (6 points): Placed 10th to earn his first consecutive top 10 of his Cup career. Last Week: Unranked

Others receiving votes: Chase Briscoe (3 points), Ryan Blaney (3 points), Christopher Bell (3 points), Sheldon Creed (1 point)

NASCAR video explains Choose Rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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NASCAR detailed in its drivers meeting video how the Choose Rule will be used for restarts in Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The non-points race marks the first time Choose Rule — which allows drivers to determine what lane they restart — will be used in a NASCAR Cup event. Drivers have been vocal about trying the rule since May.

The Choose Rule will be used for restarts only. It will not be used for the start of the All-Star Race, which is being held for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The video states that drivers must be single file under caution when crossing the start/finish line at the time to choose their restart lane. The video states that a V shaped painted mark on the track will show where drivers must decide what lane they wish to restart.

To restart in the inside lane, drivers must have their right side tires on or below the painted line at the V shaped mark.

To restart in the outside lane, drivers must have their left side tires on or above the painted line at the V shaped mark on the track.

If in NASCAR’s discretion, a driver has not chosen a lane at the V shaped mark on the track, changes lanes, tires touch the painted box after the V shaped mark or impedes the process, that driver will have to restart at the tail end of the field in the longest line of cars.

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

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NASCAR announced on Tuesday the first fine for a violation of its COVID-19 protocols.

Anthony Clements, owner of Jeremy Clements Racing, was fined $10,000 for violating section 12.8.1.b of the Member Conduct Guidelines and section 7.7.2.j Team Event Roster Guidelines in the rulebook.

Among the potential violations in Section 12.8.1.b is that a member can be fined $5,000-$25,000 for: “Failure to comply with NASCAR’s COVID-19 Event Protocol Guidelines and/or instructions from NASCAR including screenings, social distancing, compartmentalization, and use of required personal protective equipment, etc.”

Last week, NASCAR issued a memo to teams requesting them to address “complacency” regarding its COVID-19 mask policy.

Section 7.7.2.j says “If a team is not in compliance with the Team Event Roster Rules and guidelines, that team will be subject to a Penalty as outlined in Section 12 Violations and Disciplinary Action.”

NASCAR also issued a $5,000 fine to crew chief Dave Rogers for one unsecured lug nut on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota.

NASCAR did not issue any penalties for Friday’s post-race fight between Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Last Saturday, NASCAR announced L1 level penalties for three Truck Series teams that failed pre-race inspection.

Wednesday’s Bristol All-Star Race: Start time, lineup and more

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History will be made Wednesday night when NASCAR holds the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time.

The night will be filled with many other firsts. Cars will have unique paint schemes centered around their sponsors. Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star race will have underglow lights on their cars. This will be the first national NASCAR event with the choose rule.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of Wednesday night’s event.

(All times are Eastern)

START: All-Star Open: Command to start engines is at 7:02 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. All-Star Race: Command to start engines is at 8:56 p.m. Green flag is at 9:01 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at Noon (teams are assigned specific times). All-Star Open: Driver introductions at 6:43 p.m. Drivers report to cars at 6:45 p.m. Invocation at 6:54 p.m. All-Star Race: Driver introductions at 8:35 p.m. Invocation at 8:47 p.m. National anthem at 8:49 p.m.

DISTANCES: All-Star Open: 85 laps around the half-mile track. All-Star Race: 140 laps.

SEGMENTS: All-Star Open: 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps. All-Star Race: 55 laps / 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps (only green-flag laps count in final segment)

CHOOSE RULE FOR ALL-STAR RACE: Competitors can choose which lane to restart. Rule is detailed here.

ADVANCING: The winners of each stage in the Open will advance to the All-Star Race. A fourth driver will advance through a fan vote.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

FORECAST: For the All-Star Open, wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies, a high of 87 degrees and chance of rain at the start. For the All-Star Race, it forecasts a high of 81 degrees and no chance of rain.

LAST ALL-STAR RACE: Kyle Larson beat Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to claim his All-Star Race win.

ALL-STAR OPEN STARTING LINEUP: Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

ALL-STAR RACE STARTING LINEUP: Click here for All-Star Lineup

Catch up on NBC Sports’ coverage:

Bump and Run: All-Star Race picks, surprising wins, and more

Cash App to sponsor Bubba Wallace in multi-year deal

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

Cup rookies shine going into All-Star Race

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight