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XFINITY

Lack of Speed and Communication Holding Truex back from Contention

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series guys go back to the ovals, the NASCAR XFINITY Series ran their second straight road course of the season. The push to make the playoffs is starting to heat up as some teams hope to become a factor in the next upcoming weeks.

After his best career season in one of NASCAR’s top three national series, Ryan Truex snagged an opportunity with Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series replacing Blake Koch. Kaulig Racing failed to score a win during two seasons with Koch and was looking for a positive change.

After parting ways with Hattori Racing Enterprises, things fell into place for Truex. It was a bit of a surprise to fans that after a strong year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Truex would lose his ride. In fact, it led to Truex joining a new team up in the XFINITY Series.

Yes, we can say he climbed the latter after a full-time season in the Trucks Series; but let’s face it, after 20 races so far, Truex hasn’t had as much success as he had in 2017. They began the season strong, capturing two top-10s in the first couple of events but nine top-10’s with a single top-five finish have rounded out their year so far. Their team is not racing to the level of some of their top tier competitors but are looking to catch up quickly before the playoffs.

“Just trying to find speed; we’re not running where we need to right now to make it to Homestead,” Truex told POPULAR SPEED.

Truex sits comfortably in the eighth position in the playoff standings despite only two top-10’s in the last six races. 

As Truex and Kaulig Racing look towards the future, their lack of speed may be revived with better communication. That’s right, a key to having success in a race car is a strong rapport with your team, and that may very well be holding Truex back.

“Yeah, I mean can give better feedback and work on my end of things and that’ll help too,” Truex said.

With five races left before the playoffs, if Truex and his team are able to solve these two issues, their season may easily progress into a threat for race wins and possibly a championship.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Allgaier, Koch in Precarious Position after Texas

Justin Allgaier and Blake Koch collected solid finishes at Texas Motor Speedway – finishing 10th and 14th, respectively – but their Chase situations are anything but stable.

Koch’s weekend got off to a rocky start when he wrecked during practice, but his backup car didn’t disappoint in qualifying. The Kaulig Racing Chevrolet started 12th Saturday afternoon and hung around the top 15 until he feared tire issues. After pitting for a fresh set and going a lap down, Koch worked his way back up into the top 20 before a speeding penalty halted his progress. He used the last 50 laps to climb through the field and bring the No. 11 home in 14th.

Koch praised his team for overcoming the rough start to the weekend, saying, “I’m so proud of my team for rebounding off of that and getting out the backup car. They had it out before I even got my car back into the garage.”

The Texas result places him fourth on the Chase Grid, one point above the cut line. Koch knows his championship position isn’t ideal, yet he is grateful for the finish and some momentum for next week’s cutoff race at Phoenix International Raceway

“To come out of here with a top 15 and still in the Chase, I couldn’t be any more pumped and proud. We have a great Phoenix car, and we have a great Phoenix backup,” he said. “We’re ready, and it’s one of my best racetracks … I feel like I’ve gotten so much better as a driver. We’ve gotten so much better as a team at that point. I can’t wait to see what we look like at Phoenix.”

Allgaier’s day went a lot smoother than Koch’s; the JR Motorsports Chevrolet started sixth and stayed in the top 10 throughout the afternoon. The No. 7 team executed consistent stops and avoided trouble, finishing 10th.  Although he gave a stout performance, Allgaier sits one point below the cutoff line – meaning he and Koch will go against each other next weekend.

The JRM driver is confident in his team after this weekend and hopes to leave Phoenix with a trophy.

“We executed and came away with a top 10 finish. I’m very proud to drive this car,” he said, adding,” Phoenix was one of the tracks that I had circled in the Chase as I’ve always done well there.”

There is a lot of positivity surrounding their respective situations, and both feel their teams are prepared for whatever comes their way. Winning would be the best Chase scenario for Allgaier and Koch.

However, the JRM driver is hoping for another outcome – one that would benefit both him and Koch.

“I get to race my buddy Blake Koch for the final spot. I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Hopefully, something happens, and we both get in.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Can Koch’s ‘Underdog’ Lure Suffice For Homestead Advancement?

Less than 10 months ago, Kaulig Racing was not yet in existence.

Today, the first-year XFINITY Series team with Blake Koch piloting the No. 11 Chevrolet is third in the Chase standings with three races left in 2016.

Everyone appreciates a good underdog story and Koch’s inceptive season with the single-car organization has certainly been popular with fans of NASCAR’s secondary series.

Koch stated the team’s goal at the start of this year’s XFINITY campaign was simply to make the series’ inaugural Chase. Through a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and 19 top-15 results in 30 races, they’ve accomplished that and more.

The No. 11 advanced to the second round of the Chase, which Koch did not expect. And it’s easy to see why he didn’t because outracing Sprint Cup Series-affiliated teams such as RCR, Joe Gibbs Racing, or JR Motorsports is not an easy task.

But through the first four races of the Chase, Koch has done something some of the drivers of those teams haven’t. He’s stayed away from trouble.

Koch isn’t necessarily the flashiest driver in the series, but he’s one of the most consistent. His four Chase finishes are 11th, 14th, 12th, and ninth. That’s enough to place him seven points behind championship leaders Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez.

So here’s the big question: Can Koch make it to Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the four title contenders?

There’s no reason why he can’t. When you’re racing against JGR and JRM — two organizations with series regulars that have combined for nine victories in 2016 — and your best finish is eighth, surely the odds are going to be against you. But those teams’ drivers can afford to be more aggressive, which means they’re prone to more crashes.

JGR and JRM have flexed their horsepower all season long, and that’s OK … until a battle for the lead late in a race results in a couple of DNFs.

It’s kind of like The Tortoise and the Hare story, and Koch has been the tortoise that goes steadily about his business.

The next two races at Texas and Phoenix are going to be tough. The pressure will be on the remaining Chase contenders to get the best finishes possible and be one of the Championship 4 at Homestead.

But for Koch, any further playoff advancement is all gravy. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. He’s only five points above the Chase cutoff, so he might need some more things to go his way in the next two events.

But there aren’t any guarantees of misfortune striking the competition. Koch can only worry about racing to the best of his ability and anything else that happens with other Chase contenders is out of his control.

Still, you never know, he might have the red XFINITY banner above his windshield come November 19th.

After all, not many people predicted the little team that could to survive the Round of 12. Only time will tell the fate of his career-best season in NASCAR.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.