Rick Ware Racing (RWR) has named Kaz Grala to its 2024 driver lineup, with the 25-year-old Boston native piloting the organization’s No. 15 Ford Mustang in 25 NASCAR Cup Series races.
Grala comes to RWR with seven Cup Series starts already under his belt, a mark that includes a top-10 finish in his Cup Series debut on Aug. 16, 2020 when he drove to a seventh-place finish on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
It was a milestone moment in a series of milestones for Grala, beginning with a breakout NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win in the 2017 season opener on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. Grala won in just his 10th career Truck Series start, becoming the youngest race winner in Daytona history at 18 years, 1 month and 26 days old.
“Kaz Grala is a talented and tenacious driver who brings a lot to our race team,” said Rick Ware, owner, RWR. “He has an incredible work ethic and leverages every opportunity to its full potential. He’s an asset inside and outside of the car who will help make our program better.”
Despite his early success, Grala has had to scratch and claw for opportunities. Since running the full Truck Series schedule in 2017 when he finished an impressive seventh in the championship standings, Grala has pieced together an assortment of races across NASCAR’s top-three series – Truck, Xfinity and Cup. It wasn’t until 2023 that Grala was able to run another full season, competing in the Xfinity Series for Sam Hunt Racing, earning nine top-10 finishes for the young team.
“I’ve found myself as an underdog at each level of NASCAR, and I feel I thrive in that position,” said Grala, who began racing go karts as a 4-year-old in Massachusetts. “It’s important to get the most out of the car on restarts and in the closing laps of a race, all while taking care of the equipment, and those are my strengths. I also like to be hands-on with the team during the week, involved in what the next step is to advance our program.”
The addition of Grala, an accomplished yet hungry racecar driver, and pairing him with crew chief Billy Plourde, is another important move by Ware as he continues to advance his NASCAR operation. Last July, Ware signed Justin Haley, a winner in Cup, Xfinity and Truck, to drive RWR’s No. 51 Ford Mustang.
“Kaz is another crucial piece of our organization and for the same reasons we brought Justin Haley on board, we feel Kaz can also contribute immediately,” Ware said. “Kaz wants to make a difference and, above all, he wants to perform. That’s the kind of drive and determination all of us have at RWR.”
In 2023, RWR won three NHRA Drag Racing Series events in the Top Fuel class with driver Clay Millican and scored two Progressive American Flat Track wins with rider Briar Bauman. And coming off its 2022 FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX) with rider Shane McElrath, RWR continued to score WSX victories between McElrath and teammate Joey Savatgy.
“I’ve been really impressed by RWR’s vision and the plan they’ve laid out to get where they want to be,” Grala said. “This sport is all about people, and I’ve learned that having everyone pulling in the same direction is the key to success. Every single person at RWR is a racer, and they want to prove themselves in the Cup Series just as badly as I do, so it’s a perfect fit. I’m excited to see what we’re able to accomplish together. I think we’re going to surprise some people this year.”
After racing go-karts, a 9-year-old Grala moved to Bandoleros, where he first experienced oval racing. He proved a quick study, winning track titles in Massachusetts and New York in 2011. Grala moved up to Legends Cars in 2012 and won the Winter Heat championship at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the Legend Cars Pro division. From there, it was on to Late Models and Super Late Models, where Grala won his UARA-STARS debut in 2013 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway before scoring victories in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 2014 at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina, and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Grala spent 2014-2015 in the ARCA Menards Series East before making a handful of NASCAR Truck Series starts in 2016 that ultimately led to his breakthrough win at Daytona in 2017. It’s culminated with this moment at RWR.
“I’ve gotten the chance to race in the Cup Series a handful of times already, so I know how big of a jump it is from the Xfinity Series,” Grala said. “The depth of talent in Cup is steep. It really is the highest level of motorsport in the U.S., with both the quality of teams and the drivers. Last year, the Xfinity Series had a particularly deep field of full time competitors, so I feel like 2023 was the right year for me to gain experience ahead of this next step in my career.
“Anytime you sit in a Cup car, you have more eyes on you than at any other level. There’s more pressure, but at the same time I feel like there’s something more calming about racing on Sundays, considering I’ve been pushing to make that a reality since I was single digits in age. As a competitor, you love the idea of competing against the best of the best, so I couldn’t be more up for the challenge that’s ahead of me this year.”
Grala will make his RWR debut in the exhibition Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Feb. 4 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. His first regular-season race will be the Ambetter Health 400 Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.