DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By John Tejada, NASCAR — photo courtesy Turner Scott Motorsports — Kaz Grala is hoping that his recent on-track success will give him momentum heading into Friday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Grala, 15, is in his first year competing in the K&N Pro Series East, running the No. 31 NETTTS Chevrolet Impala for Turner Scott Motorsports in the upcoming Granite State 100. After opening the season with a pair of top-10 finishes in New Smyrna (Florida) and Daytona Beach, the youngest driver on the circuit had only one top 10 in his next six events. Grala’s season might be turning around after recording his first top-five finish with the series on June 21 in the Visit Hampton VA 175 from Langley (Virginia) Speedway.
“It was my best career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East finish,” said Grala about his fifth place effort at Langley. “With five laps to go, I was in the eighth position for a restart. I fought my way past three more cars on the outside with a photo finish for fifth place.”
The Westborough, Massachusetts, native hasn’t slowed his pace since. He scored a pair of top-10s in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events on June 28 at South Boston (Virginia) Speedway and on July 3, he took part in the Dr. & Mrs. Maresca of St. Lawrence Radiology NASCAR Late Model 200 event, placing second to defending Whelen All-American Series National Champion Lee Pulliam and one spot ahead of the 2005 champion Peyton Sellers.
“The race was stacked with competition,” said Grala. “A bunch of national champions, it was definitely some stiff competition. It helps me learn driving around behind those guys, seeing what they do. Obviously, they know what they’re doing so it’s good to be able to drive behind them and learn, but it’s also a motivation to try and beat them because they are the best in the business there.”
The next day, Grala headed to Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina, for the Rusty Harpe Memorial Whelen All-American Series Late Model race. After starting the event from the fourth spot, Grala worked his way through the field to set up an exciting finish with Pulliam, edging out the defending champion for his first Whelen All-American Series victory.
“The Caraway race was awesome,” said a joyous Grala when recalling the event. “I backed it down and saved tires the whole race. Then, when it was time to make my move to the front, I was able to do that and hold off Dillon Bassett and Lee Pulliam, which was pretty cool.”
Combining his recent Whelen All-American Series and K&N Pro Series East results, Grala has collected one win, three top fives and five top 10s since June 21. He hopes that success will carry over to his next K&N Pro Series East start in New Hampshire in front of a hometown crowd.
“That’s gonna be cool because my friends and family that don’t normally get to come to races are going to be able to go. We’ve got some momentum going, with my best career finish in K&N East and the second and first place finish last week, I’m pretty excited about what Friday has in store for us because we had a stretch of bad luck and it seems that it’s turning around now. I’m hoping that it will continue to be good like it has been so that I can have a good showing at my home race.”