By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
A new year means a new series and a new team for Kaz Grala. After spending the last two years with GMS Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Westborough, MA native will move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JGL Racing.
The 2017 Truck Series season was a success for Grala. He won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway from the pole after narrowly avoiding the final lap melee. Grala also earned five top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes. A run-in with Austin Cindric kept Grala from winning on the road course in Canada. Further bad luck in the Playoffs relegated him to a seventh-place finish in the points standings.
“I love GMS,” Grala said of his former team. “I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to drive for them. I had this opportunity to move up to the Xfinity Series. It just seemed like the right fit for me. I considered all of the different options I had, and this one was definitely the best. I’m excited about what I’m about to do at JGL Racing. I’m thankful to James Whitener (JGL Racing’s team owner) for giving me the chance.”
Grala will drive the No. 24 Ford Mustang for JGL Racing in 2018. The team is shifting from Toyota Racing to Ford Performance and an alliance with Roush Fenway Racing.
JGL Racing has had a history of fielding and developing young, up-and-coming drivers including Dylan Lupton, Jeb Burton, and Matt Tifft to name a few. In the short history of the organization, the team has earned just five top-fives, and 11 top-10 finishes. Dakoda Armstrong earned the teams’ best finish, third, in the July race at Daytona International Speedway. The team fell just short of making the 2017 Playoffs with Armstrong.
“Well, I try not to put any expectations on myself,” Grala was modest about his expectations, “and I’d say that our goal is definitely to make the Playoffs, the Round of 12, and then we’ll talk once I get there. We can set our sights on trying to make it to Homestead. The Xfinity Series, with the number of full-time racers that there are, and the number of drivers not racing for points, you’re more than likely points racing to make the Playoffs. We’re just looking to have a solid season, learn in the first third and in the last two-thirds getting after it and racking up the results.”
Grala will be one of several drivers that will be learning on track while competing for Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He will compete with Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Spencer Boyd, and Vinnie Miller for those honors. Both Grala and Nemechek have never made a start in the Xfinity Series.
For now, Grala, Whitener, and the entire JGL Racing team will prepare as they have a lot to learn in a short amount of time.