Blake Koch back with TriStar Motorsports, will run full Xfinity Series schedule in 2015

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After a rough 2014, things are definitely looking up in 2015 for Xfinity Series driver Blake Koch.

The 29-year-old native of West Palm Beach, Fla., will return for a second season with TriStar Motorsports, with plans to compete in the entire 33-race Xfinity schedule.

“After a good 2014 season, I am excited to be back with TriStar Motorsports for the 2015 season,” Koch said in a media release. “I am looking forward to working with (new crew chief) Bruce Cook and the #8 crew and can’t wait to get to Daytona.”

Koch competed in 28 races in 2014 (all but one for TriStar), the same number as he did in 2013. His best finish last season was an 18th-place showing in the fall race at Phoenix.

But it was definitely a struggle in 2014, as Koch recorded 18 DNFs and failed to qualify for two other races.

Koch drove both the No. 10 and No. 44 Toyota Camry’s for TriStar last season.

In 2015, however, he’ll drive the No. 8 Toyota Camry. He’ll also drive with a new crew chief atop the pit box, as Cook handles strategy calls.

Koch split last season racing with crew chiefs Greg Connor (on the No. 44) and Todd Myers (on the No. 10).

Koch also made five Sprint Cup starts in 2014, with four for Go FAS Racing and owner Frank Stoddard, an analyst on NBCSN’s NASCAR America. Koch’s best finish in those five starts was 30th in the spring race at Dover.

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Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.