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XFINITY

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

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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.

John Haverlin is currently studying Communication at Arizona State University. He has been a reporter at Phoenix International Raceway for three years and has written news stories for the track's official site. Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., Haverlin has lived in Arizona the past three years.