WATKINS GLEN, NY — Kaz Grala is well known for his road course expertise. In recent years, he’s gotten several opportunities in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series to run competitively when turning left and right.
Saturday’s Sunoco Go Rewards 200 Xfinity race was the latest example. In Grala’s final scheduled race of 2022 with Big Machine Racing, the 23-year-old lined up 14th for the green flag. During the opening stage, he remained competitive, and when many drivers elected to pit during a caution with just a handful of laps remaining in the stage, the No. 48 Chevrolet stayed out to score stage points. He placed third.
The middle stage was a bit more dicey for Grala, as he mixed it up in a five-car battle inside the top 10. On lap 32, he spun out Brandon Jones in Turn 7, but still finished the stage in eighth position.
“I feel so bad about the [No.] 19,” Grala said after the race. “I overshot the last corner and totally drove through him. I did not mean to clean him out at all. I don’t want to be that guy.”
Putting that incident out of his mind, Grala restarted in the top 10 for the race’s final restart. When Ty Gibbs and William Byron traded paint for the lead and spun in the inner loop, the No. 48 car sidestepped and jumped up to fourth.
Ty Gibbs loses it and takes William Byron with him!
The leaders are out of it as Kyle Larson takes the lead. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/XTsurXNEf8
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 20, 2022
Over the final four laps, Noah Gragson got by Grala, moving the No. 48 car back to fifth. Still, it was Grala’s first top-five result of the season, and it’s his first top-five finish in the Xfinity Series since 2020 at Road America with Richard Childress Racing (11 starts ago).
“I knew these Big Machine Racing guys could do it; I’ve seen them do it,” Grala added. “We’ve had some various bad luck, bad circumstances in previous races. Finally got a chance to have that clean race and show what we could do together.
“Anytime you can get a top five, it’s a confidence booster and gives you a little bit of momentum. I’ve had bad luck in almost every race I’ve had this year, we’ve had some slight hiccups. When you start putting races together and having no mistakes, no penalties, no issues, I think that snowballs and you have good runs from there.”
For the rest of the 2022 season, Grala has three scheduled Truck Series races remaining with Young’s Motorsports. He really wants to run at least one more Xfinity race, though Marco Andretti will make his NASCAR debut in the series’ final road course event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL with Big Machine Racing.
Should The Money Team Racing garner sponsorship dollars, Grala would be a fit there, as he’s driven the No. 50 Cup car in three races this season. The team has an average finish of 24.7.
“Personally, I think my capability, my potential has yet to be shown in this sport,” Grala said. “I think we’ve seen little clips of it, but I do think with the chance to work together every week, I think I could do a lot more. Hopefully, this was a good step towards being able to get me in a car more consistently for next year, that’s the goal.
“It’s good to have days like this.”
Grala will be slotted to drive the No. 02 truck for Young’s Motorsports at Kansas in three weeks.