By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Unapproved adjustments pre-race and a mid-race pit road speeding penalty almost derailed Kaz Grala and The Money Team Racing’s Daytona 500 bid.
The long-awaited debut of the Floyd Mayweather co-owned team almost ended with disappointment in the first Bluegreen Duel at Daytona. Following qualifying on Wednesday night, Grala’s No. 50 Pit Viper Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE was third fastest among the open cars, missing a guaranteed starting spot.
The battle for the open team starting spot came down to the final lap. Both Grala and J.J. Yeley were two laps down. It was in the final two laps that Yeley’s No. 55 Hex.com Ford Mustang was lapped for the second time. Entering Turn 1, Grala stayed tucked in with the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets and 23XI’s Kurt Busch. Utilizing the draft, he swept by Yeley on the final lap. The draft, combined with the timing, bumped Grala in and Yeley out of the 500.
“It’s a relief, for a while there I thought we weren’t going to make it,” admitted Grala. “I made it happen not the way I wanted to; I made a mistake on pit road. Kurt Busch was pushing us. It wasn’t much but we were able to make it happen and pass the 55 on the final lap. I was worried about whatever (Yeley) might try when I was pass him. If it was a lap later, it would have been all for nothing.”
“It’s stressful. This was probably way more hectic (than last year). With it being a new team, everything had to be done from scratch. And we somehow came out here, built a car, and made the Daytona 500. We’re going to celebrate tonight.”
Pre-race, the team replaced the dash in his Chevrolet. That forced the Boston, MA driver to start from the rear of the field. Grala held onto the draft of the Kaulig Racing Chevrolets and several Stewart-Haas Racing Fords until lap 20. It was then that he lost the draft. He was quickly lapped by the leaders, and then passed by the other open car looking for a starting spot, Yeley. Adding insult to injury, when Grala pitted, he was busted for speeding on pit road. The ensuing pass-through penalty cost the 23-year-old the draft and ultimately a second lap.
Grala’s run marks his second career start in ‘The Great American Race.’ Last year he competed for Kaulig Racing.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo.