Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shannon and Blake Koch: A Love Story

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Shannon and Blake Koch
Competing for the Rookie-of-the-Year title in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Blake Koch is looking to make his mark on NASCAR. By his side through it all is his loving wife Shannon.

Shannon, who was born and raised in Florida, is learning the ropes of NASCAR and is eager to see Blake succeed in his dreams.

Many wives and girlfriends come from a racing background, but for Shannon, racing is a whole new world. As she told me, “Blake started racing four years ago and has moved so fast. So it is all very, very new. I think I have been to eight races now, so again, it’s very new to me.”

Trying to “figure out her place” and adapting from her traditional schedule of working a 9 to 5 job to the hectic and fast paced life of NASCAR has been a whirlwind for Shannon.

After purchasing a fifth wheel camper, Shannon and Blake drive to many tracks within a ten hour distance. Living the life of packing, unpacking and once again repacking to leave again can be difficult, but attitude makes the difference. Shannon said this type of life can be “crazy” but would not trade it for anything else.

Blake and Shannon met at the age of 12 – that is when their romance blossomed, even before either were old enough to “date.” As children in Florida, the couple grew up together, spending most of their time talking on the phone. Years later, the love bug bit, Shannon and Blake were no longer kids in love but now adults. As Shannon recounts, “I was maybe 18 or 19 and it just kind of happened.”

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Married in Florida in May of 2010, The Kochs had to adapt their wedding due to racing. May was the only time Blake had free, so thanks to family help, a wedding was planned in only four months time. (For those who do not know, most weddings can take up to a year to plan) “That was crazy, I feel like everything we do is crazy.” 

Something I found interesting about Blake is his openness to speak about his religion, knowing that can be a polarizing topic today. His sponsor Day Star Racing, is a Christian television network. I asked Shannon if this brings up conversations with fans about their sponsor and their own personal religion. “Everybody has questions about Day Star, how do I find it, what is it? Blake really gets all the questions.”

Faith in NASCAR is nothing new, which made me wonder: does having a religious belief help someone through the trials and tribulations of NASCAR? I spoke to Shannon just days after Blake crashing at Richmond, so this question hit home. “It definitely does. You have to realize that it is not Blake’s time, God is working through Blake and he has a plan for him, we just have to wait and see what it is. It is hard to think like that, but you just have to, it makes everything so much easier. It’s all in His time.”

Through Blake, Shannon has learned to be positive through the ups and downs of racing. “He is so positive. He is really good, I do not know how he got that calm.”

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Junior sits and waits as Blake races.
To be newlyweds, new to NASCAR and competing for the Nationwide Series Rookie-of-the-Year all bring a level of stress that has to be daunting at times. I asked Shannon how she handles it all and her response was graceful. “We are still having fun. It’s hard to get used to being on the road, getting everything together that we will need, packing up the camper but it has been so nice to be with him. The first half of our marriage, Blake was traveling every weekend and flying so I could not afford to go with him, plus I had a job. It’s awesome to be able to travel with him.” Along with the ride when the Kochs pack up and hit the road: their 90 pound yellow lab named Junior.

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Preparing for the Better Half Dash
Another thing that is important to the Kochs is working with MRO. Tying together their worship and racing. MRO (Motor Racing Outreach) provides chapel services on weekends and outreach events for the garage families. “It is really nice, short and sweet and they hit you with such a strong message”, said Shannon as she told me about MRO’s work. “It is really nice to take out that time during the busy day to worship.” Interestingly, Shannon told me about a Bible study that she attends for the women of NASCAR, usually on a Saturday morning, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the weekend. This Bible study has also been a great introduction into the NASCAR community for Shannon, getting to meet the other wives, girlfriends and workers in NASCAR, creating some great friendships.

MRO is hosting a great event in October during the Charlotte Chase weekend, the women of NASCAR will be competing in the Better Half Dash. The BHD is a 25 lap charity race, benefitting MRO and Speedway Children’s Charities, is drawing the names of women across NASCAR. Shannon will be competing against Ashley Allgaier, Katie Kenseth, Wendy Venturini and good friend Jami McDowell just to name a few. “I am really nervous,” said Shannon speaking of the butterflies as she prepares to strap behind the wheel herself. “I am really excited and I am sure it will be a lot of fun.” The BDH is a full out event for the ladies, painting their cars, decals, sponsors, firesuits, helmets..the list goes on. The race will not be live on TV but SPEED will be showing highlights on it on RaceDay, be sure to tune in. To help MRO, text “MOTOR” to 20222 to donate $10.

NASCAR fans are very loyal to their drivers, making it somewhat difficult for new drivers like Blake to pick up a large fan following. I asked Shannon, what is one thing fans should know about Blake, stumping her a bit with that question. “He is such a hard worker and he works so hard for everything that he does. He never gives up. We were talking, even if he does not get a ride next year, we will not leave North Carolina, he is where he wants to be and wants to be available because something will happen. He is not going to quit until something does happen.”

Getting an insight into the personal side of Blake, I asked Shannon what is one thing people do not know about him, perhaps a hidden talent. To my surprise, she said “He plays the drums. When we first started dating he was a drummer in a Christian band. We have a Bible study on Monday nights with a couple drivers and Blake plays the drums, Trevor Bayne and Josh Wise play the guitars and Michael McDowell sings. (Who knew, American Idol: NASCAR Edition?) Check out this youtube video (sorry it is bad quality).

Through the trials and tribulations life will throw at them, two things will get Shannon and Blake through it all, their love for each other and their love for God.


NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also expanded her area of coverage to include exclusive interviews, brought straight to the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here. Feel free to follow and contact Amanda via Twitter.

1 comments :

Hey, you guys. I'm not sure how I got to this site tonight - but, I've never seen it before. And, since you guys are my favorite Nationwide personalities - I joined. I love you both - and so enjoy watching you grow (together).

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