As 19-year old Kaz Grala finished up media interviews on a rainy Michigan International Speedway pit road following Saturday’s LTi Printing 250, fellow racer Ross Chastain walked right up with a smile and congratulations.
“Kaz Grala, I thought you had it,” Chastain said.
Grala smiled even wider acknowledging the well wishes. “Darn it, I thought so too.”
It may not have been the race win, but Grala was absolutely a happy and encouraged 12th-place finisher – leading five laps of the race in the No. 61 NETTIS Ford and earning that finish after driving up through the field not once, but twice after being penalized mid-race for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop.
He started last in the 40-car field because qualifying was cancelled due to bad weather and Grala had the fewest season starts among those entered. And even that starting spot was fortuitous as another team with more previous starts withdrew from the event midweek.
No matter the setting, Grala’s showing Saturday was a fantastic demonstration of great desire and tremendous talent – of exceeding expectation.
After working his way up to the front, Grala led laps 67-71 and was left to dice it up at the front among a large pack of more experienced, but no more-hungrier competitors.
“It was awesome and really cool to be able to lead,” Grala said. “I led a few laps at Phoenix from pit strategy but that was my first time legitimately leading an Xfinity race and that was exciting from a personal note.
“I wish we could have been able to hang on to it a little better or even if we got on the outside for the restart we would have been in great shape. But it comes down to track position and a little bit of luck. The luck bit us a little, but we came home 12th and all things considered having started last and having to go back to the back of the field again in the race, I think we can leave here fairly satisfied.”
Grala said the Fury Race Cars team has been meeting with sponsors in the last few weeks. It was a primarily a late model team competing in NASCAR’s weekly series but made the move up to the Xfinity Series three weeks ago with Grala – committing to a four-race schedule. And it has three impressive showings in its maiden competition, including a 10th-place effort in its Charlotte Motor Speedway debut, a 16th at Pocono last week and a 12th-place here at Michigan with its first laps lead.
“The outcome could have been different,” he allowed with a smile. “But even with what we’re trying to accomplish as a small team, we are just trying to prove our worth and try to get some sponsorship to get to as many races as we can this year.
“The win would have really helped but I think even just a strong showing like that will pay off a lot for us in the long term. I can’t thank everyone at Fury Race Cars and Ford enough for their support. Really, really fun race to drive and I hope to be in a position like that again next week at Iowa.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this what this team has been able to so in such a short amount of time.”