By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
In his second start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, Kaz Grala wheeled the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet to a top-10 finish.
The last time that Grala competed in the Cup Series was in the season-opening Daytona 500. In the 500, the race ended prematurely as a fire and the damaged vehicle policy sent the No. 16 Hyper Ice Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the garage just after halfway.
At Talladega Superspeedway, Grala entered the top-10 in the closing laps. After pitting for fresh tires under caution, he followed Brad Keselowski, Michael McDowell, William Byron and others up through the field.
In overtime for the GEICO 500, Grala lined up just outside the top-10. During the two-lap shootout, he was in the inside lane and surged forward. Coming to the checkered flag, Grala darted for a gap between Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto that was quickly closing. The Boston, MA native slammed into the two drivers. The contact cut Jones’ tire sending him spinning. Grala, meanwhile, crossed the line in sixth 0.001 seconds behind DiBenedetto.
“We had a really good Hyper Ice Chevrolet,” admitted Grala. “Kaulig Racing did a great job. They won the NASCAR Xfinity Race yesterday, so big weekend for them all around. But I was just happy to get to pilot this thing. It is few and far between when I do, but I try to make an impression on my few starts, and I feel like today was a good step in the right direction.
“Didn’t have the best luck in Daytona, but we rebounded here. I think that’s a great boost in momentum for us. Hopefully it’ll be just another piece of the puzzle for me to get a full-time ride sometime down the road.”
Grala started 38th at Talladega due to the metric qualifying formula. Throughout much of the first two stages, he ran in the back of the lead draft. At one point, Grala lost the draft. However, he never lost a lap due to some well-timed cautions.
The race was Kaulig Racing’s third in the Cup Series this year and the fourth in the history of the organization. Grala’s sixth-place finish marked the best finish in the Cup Series for the team and their second top-10. AJ Allmendinger scored the team’s first top-10 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course earlier this year.
The sixth-place finish was Grala’s second career top-10 in the Cup Series. His first came in his Cup debut when he filled in for Austin Dillon at the Daytona Road Course last year.
Grala also earned a top-10 finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year.
The 22-year-old’s remaining 2021 NASCAR schedule is to be determined.
Feature Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo