|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish, which came in Koch’s 141st series start, was Koch’s first of the season and his first since last fall at Chicagoland, 34 races ago. Koch finished one spot ahead of current last-place leader and 2015 LASTCAR XFINITY Series champion Jeff Green, who Koch also defeated for the LASTCAR title in 2014.
Koch is currently in his first full season of XFINITY Series competition driving a fully-funded car since his 2011 campaign with MacDonald Motorsports. Coming into Kentucky, the results had been largely consistent with just four DNFs and a pair of season-best 18th-place finishes at Watkins Glen and Daytona, good enough for 17th in points. He also nearly scored his first NASCAR victory at Road America, leading five laps late in the going before his battery failed under caution. Even before the Road America race, Leaf Filter, which has sponsored most of Koch’s races, had already re-signed him for another full season in 2016.
Saturday’s race at Kentucky was a golden opportunity for series regulars such as Koch as nearly all of the so-called “Buschwhackers” from the Sprint Cup Series would only be racing in New Hampshire. Koch was 27th in both Friday’s practice sessions and he improved to 24th in Saturday’s qualifying session with a lap of 173.338 mph.
40th in Saturday’s race went to John Jackson, Jr., the 51-year-old Scottish driver making his fifth start of the season and his first since last month at Mid-Ohio. Jackson’s unsponsored white #40 Motorsports Business Management Dodge secured the spot despite being nearly a second and a half slower than Mario Gosselin, who this time took a turn in his part-time #92 Chevrolet only to become the race’s lone DNQ. Jackson was still at the back of the field when trouble broke out at the start of Lap 3.
Heading into Turns 1 and 2 that time by, contact between Brennan Poole’s #42 DC Solar Chevrolet and the #88 Alpha Energy Solutions Chevrolet of Ben Rhodes sent the #16 Lilly Diabetes / ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford of Ryan Reed sliding directly into the path of Koch’s Toyota. Koch, unable to avoid a collision, wound up limping into the garage area with the nose of his car torn up. It wasn’t until the next time by that teammate Jeff Green pulled off the track in his #19 Premier Barter Exchange Toyota. The lap proved crucial when Koch was unable to return to the race - he edged Green by exactly that distance.
Jackson pulled off the track soon after the restart and wound up 38th in the finishing order. T.J. Bell, back in JGL Racing’s #26 Toyota, spent 19 laps behind the wall and seemed certain to finish 37th, but Bell returned to the track when Michael Self’s #01 U Drive / U Text / U Pay Chevrolet crashed on Lap 28. Bell climbed out of the Bottom Five to come home 35th, dropping Self to 36th and Ryan Ellis to 37th. On Saturday, Ellis was again driving for Rick Ware, this time in the #15 Bubba Burger / BYB Extreme Fighting Series Chevrolet. While Ellis is tentatively listed as driver of Ware’s #17 next week at Dover, he’s also a candidate to instead drive for Obaika Racing in the #97 Vroom! Brands Chevrolet.
Among the underfunded drivers and teams with strong runs in Saturday’s race were Ryan Sieg, who for the third time in 2015 equaled his season-best 12th-place finish in the #39 RSS Racing Chevrolet; 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope, whose #70 Xcalibur Pit School / Buddy’s Home Furnishings Chevrolet came home 24th, his best finish since Dover in early 2014, and 21st-place Joey Gase - his best run in the #52 DB Sales Company / Donate Life Chevrolet since giving team owner Jimmy Means his first-ever top-five finish at Talladega in April. Ross Chastain, Jeremy Clements, and Ryan Truex were also in contention for top-ten finishes with 12 laps to go when all three were collected in accidents.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #8 in an XFINITY Series race since October 27, 2001, when Mark Voigt scored his first career last-place run after the shock broke on Armando Fitz’s #8 Channellock Chevrolet after 6 laps of the Outback Steakhouse 200 at Phoenix. It was to be the Illinois drive’s third and final series start following a two-race stint driving his own equipment earlier that season.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
40) #8-Blake Koch / 2 laps / crash
39) #19-Jeff Green / 3 laps / vibration
38) #40-John Jackson / 12 laps / vibration
37) #15-Ryan Ellis / 16 laps / suspension
36) #01-Michael Self / 25 laps / crash
2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Jeff Green (17) - 2015 CHAMPION
2nd) Dexter Bean (2)
3rd) Ryan Ellis, C.J. Faison, Mike Harmon, Blake Koch, Charles Lewandoski, Carl Long, Morgan Shepherd, Derek White (1)
2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) TriStar Motorsports (19)
2nd) King Autosport, Motorsports Business Management (2)
3rd) JGL Racing, Mike Harmon Racing, Rick Ware Racing, Shepherd Racing Ventures (1)
2015 LASTCAR XFINITY SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Toyota (21)
2nd) Chevrolet (3)
3rd) Dodge (2)
4th) Ford (1)