By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Determination, luck, and doing more with less, were the stories of Kaz Grala’s Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Grala’s team, Fury Race Cars LLC., is still competing on a race-to-race basis in the NASCAR Xfinity Series pending sponsorship. With a limited supply of racecars as well, the team used a retired Stewart-Haas Racing showcar. The showcar was also a former Evernham Motorsports car, a team that last competed in the Series under the Gillett-Evernham banner in 2008.
Besides determination, Grala had a little luck on his side. Restarting with under 10 laps to go, he pitted in his No. 61 Kiklos Extra Virgin Olive Oil Ford Mustang with a flat tire. Although Grala lost the draft, he missed the second ‘Big One’ of with three laps to go. In overtime, he jumped from 15th to finish fifth for the first time while driving for the team co-owned by his father.
“It was pretty hectic on that last restart,” Grala explained. “We were right behind the 24, but with eight laps to go I actually got a flat right-rear tire coming to the green. I had to pit as the field took the green, but luckily we got a caution after that. We restarted 15th and made a couple decent moves to get up to fifth. I think that’s a really, really good recovery for our team considering the trouble we had late in that race.”
“I’m just really proud of everyone at Fury Race Cars, Ford Performance and huge thanks to Kiklos and Marlowe’s Tavern for jumping on board and allowing us to do this race. I had a lot of fun today. I love plate racing and two races here this year and two top fives. I’ll take it. That’s really good for our team.”
Earlier in the race, Grala had to weave his way through a massive 17-car pile-up in turn one on lap 82 after Austin Cindric was turned from third-place. Grala drove between the mangled cars of Cindric and Tyler Reddick as others piled in. Seconds later, Cindric’s No. 60 Odyssey Battery Ford Mustang was barrel-rolling down the banking.
The fifth-place finish is just the second top-five in Grala’s Xfinity Series career, the first coming in the season-opener earlier this year. The finish also moved Grala up from 17th in the Championship Points Standings to 14th, 284-points behind Points Leader Elliott Sadler. He is now 44-points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the cutoff for the Playoffs.
“This is our first top five with Fury, but I feel like we’ve had speed all along so far since we’ve been the 61 team,” Grala said. “To see that we can come out here on a superspeedway, where it’s aero dependent, motor dependent and run with the top guys and get a good finish is really exciting for us. I know it’s a big motivation booster for us.”
“Right now, our future is unsure. We don’t have the Kentucky race sold yet, so I’m not sure if we’ll be out there next week, but good runs like this always help try to sell more races going forward. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue running at least some this year.”