“Money buys speed.” Possibly one of the most poignant things that NASCAR Nationwide Rookie of the Year contender Blake Koch said when I sat down with him before the Nashville 300.
Koch has only been racing cars for four years, and through a chance meeting with car owner Randy MacDonald, he earned his first Nationwide start in 2009. In the 81 car at Memphis, he helped earn the team one of their best finishes that year at 17th on the lead lap.
“At the time I didn’t appreciate that finish enough.” Koch said. “I was like, ‘Aw man, I want a Top 10” but I didn’t understand NASCAR in general. Its what you’ve got underneath you. It’s like horse racing. You bet on the horse, not the jockey.”
On a day when other teams had burned through three sets of tires in practice, Koch had just come in from practicing on used tires. The situation would be frustrating to many drivers, but Koch seems genuinely excited to be doing what he loves and doing it for no salary.
“At the beginning of the year I was paying all of my own expenses. Now Randy [MacDonald] is able to help me out. I cover about 90% of my expenses to come to the races but there’s no salary or no percentage of winnings. And I can’t demand that when we don’t have sponsors. I want to run good on the track so I don’t mind working Monday through Wednesday at home to do better.”
Though MacDonald Motorsports and Koch are tackling the season a bit more modestly than some, he is pleased with the way it has gone so far.
“I think we’ve shown steady improvements thus far. Texas was big and then Talladega was huge.”
Koch was the top qualifying rookie at Talladega and he hadn’t even seen the track before.
“The way the weather went, I missed the whole first and second practice. They said we had to get on the track and at least make one lap or I wouldn’t be able to qualify. I had to go out there with pure faith to get it done. Come race time was the first time I’d been around cars on the track. Luckily Joey Logano hooked up with us on the 2nd lap and took us from 30th to 13th in 28 laps. He stuck with me so I guess I was doing a decent job. I was just hoping I wouldn’t screw something up!”
For Koch now, seat time is of the utmost importance. What he lacks in experience, he has made up in faith. He is sponsored by Daystar, a Christianity-based television network. It is the perfect pairing for a driver who is using his platform to make God’s presence more aware in the NASCAR community.