|SOURCE: TriStar Motorsports Twitter|
The finish was Koch’s fifth of the 2014 season and his first since Darlington, two races ago. Koch, who has finished last in three of the previous four Nationwide races, now has a two-finish lead on TriStar Motorsports teammate Jeff Green in the LASTCAR Championship.
Koch and Green both entered and qualified for Saturday’s race, securing the 14th and 25th starting spots, respectively. Koch, 33rd-fastest in the opening practice, improved to 14th of 29 drivers in Happy Hour, then in qualifying narrowly missed the cut for the run for the pole with a speed of 185.830 mph. Even more impressive was TriStar’s LASTCAR rival Matt DiBenedetto, who was third-fastest in the opening round of qualifying in his #46 for The Motorsports Group.
DiBenedetto settled for the 23rd starting spot, and at the start of Saturday’s race, was again just a couple laps short of finishing last. Koch exited the race after the opening lap, followed by DiBenedetto and Green. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Carl Long, whose JGL Racing Dodge fell nearly thirty seconds behind the 36th-place car before he pulled behind the wall, and Bobby Gerhart, who nearly took the victory in that morning’s 200-mile ARCA race.
Restrictor-plate racing has always had its share of surprises, and Saturday was no exception:
David Starr, who at Daytona drove Koch’s #10 to a 25th-place finish, jumped into TriStar’s #44, led five laps in the closing stages, and came home 9th. It was Starr’s first Top Ten in the series - and the first for a TriStar car this season.
David Ragan drove Fred Biagi’s #98 to a 5th-place finish, the first Top Five for a Biagi-owned car since July 2, 2004, when the team scored its most recent win with Mike Wallace at Daytona.
Joe Nemechek bounced back from his DNQ for Sunday’s Cup race by finishing 6th in his #87. It was Nemechek’s first top-ten finish in the series since an 8th at Richmond on September 7, 2012.
The day before his impressive 11th-place finish for Circle Sport and Hillman Racing in the Cup race, Landon Cassill earned an 8th-place finish in Johnny Davis’ #01 Flex Seal Chevrolet. It was Cassill’s best finish in the series since his career-best 3rd-place run at Daytona on February 19, 2011.
Gregg Mixon and Jimmy Means have been fielding Nationwide Series teams since 2001, and Saturday saw both teams score their best-ever finish in the series. J.J. Yeley brought home Mixon’s unsponsored #28 Dodge in the 7th spot, Yeley’s best finish since coming home 2nd to David Gilliland at Kentucky in 2006. Joey Gase scored an 11th-place run in Means’ #52 Donate Life Chevrolet, beating the team’s previous best of 14th set by Donnie Neunberger at Talladega in 2008.
*This is the second-straight last-place finish for TriStar’s #10 in this event, joining Jeff Green’s run last year. It is Koch’s first last-place finish in a Nationwide race at Talladega.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #10-Blake Koch / 1 lap / vibration
39) #46-Matt DiBenedetto / 3 laps / vibration
38) #91-Jeff Green / 4 laps / vibration
37) #93-Carl Long / 14 laps / electrical
36) #85-Bobby Gerhart / 31 laps / engine
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Blake Koch (5)
2nd) Jeff Green (3)
3rd) Jimmy Weller (1)
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #10-TriStar Motorsports (6)
2nd) #91-TriStar Motorsports (2)
3rd) #55-VIVA Motorsports / SS Green Light Racing (1)
LASTCAR N'WIDE SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (8)
2nd) Chevrolet (1)