ashley asks....

ASHLEY ASKS…… Kaz Grala (Part 2)

By: Ashley McCubbin

After talking about the start to the season and Martinsville Speedway, NEWS FROM THE PITS dove deeper with Kaz Grala to see what his thoughts were on the weeks ahead on the schedule, his owner Sam Hunt, and more. Here is part two of the conversation….

Beyond Martinsville, which track are you most excited to get to this season?

#26: Kaz Grala, Sam Hunt Racing, Toyota Racing Development Toyota Supra

Excited? I would say Darlington, because I’ve never raced there – if you can believe that. All these years I’ve been racing in (NASCAR Craftsman) Truck (Series) and Xfinity, I’ve been around for awhile here, but Darlington for whatever reason is never fallen on my schedule. Trucks didn’t go there the year that I ran Trucks, and it just hasn’t made its way onto one of my part-time Xfinity Series schedules. Everybody always says that’s a beast of a track, really tricky one – but to me, I think it looks fun.

On iRacing, I love it and find it a lot of fun, so I do think that’s a track that has many attributes that suit my style and Sam Hunt Racing has ran well there in the past; they’ve had some great speed. So that’s a race that I’m really looking forward to. I think it’s going to be a blast, and we get to go there twice. Luckily, I can spend that first race figuring it out, learning it, hopefully still being able to get a good finish, and then just a couple months later, we head back there, (and) I can apply everything I learned and see if we can contend.

What track do you wish was on the schedule that currently is not?

North Wilksboro, selfishly – I would love to be a part of that event this year. It looks so cool – going to be a huge deal, sold out. The atmosphere is going to be awesome. That’s an Xfinity off-weekend. If any truck owner is listening, I would love to drive a Truck. I would love to drive a Cup car, too, but I feel like those are a little harder to come by. But I really want to race that weekend. I wish Xfinity was a part of that event. But at the very least, I’ll probably be out there watching if I’m not driving anything. I’m not going to miss that one.

Now Xfinity changed the package this year going into the season with the cars. How has that been different for you, and do you like the direction that they went?

#26: Kaz Grala, Sam Hunt Racing, Island Coastal Lager Toyota Supra

I like the direction they went. I guess it took away some of the dominance and advantages some of the top teams were having with the way they were gaining their skew. But at the same time, anytime you change a rule, the top teams with the most engineers will figure out the new package the quickest. So does it really even things out? Probably not. I think things all settle back into the top teams being the top teams. But as far as what the change has done, it’s made us a little bit more stable on entry and exit to the corner. It’s making us have to reinvent our set-ups a little bit to make the cars comfortable to drive and maneuver in traffic.

It’s definitely thrown a curveball at us. It’s definitely a challenge, but I feel like we’ve handled it well. On the bigger tracks, we seem to be a 12th to 16th place car – which for our organization, it’s pretty standard and pretty good. If you can run 13th, 14th all day, and try to capitalize at the end, you may be able to steal yourself a top-10 and if we rack those up, that’s a good year. I think the rules change has been good to us. I don’t have any strong opinions on it one way or another. Things change, teams react, and the sport goes around.

That’s a good way of putting it. Now that you’ve got some races in the books with Sam Hunt Racing, what has surprised you about Sam as a team owner?

I love Sam. It’s cool how involved he is. There’s not too many owners in our sport in really any of the series that are as young as he is. He’s only a few years older than I am – he’s not even 30 yet. It’s cool as the driver to be able to kind of connect with your owner in a more of a friend way, than an authority figure, parent level – heck some of the owners are grandparent-age level. It’s been to cool working with Sam and seeing what he’s been able to build there so young, so quickly, and how involved he is.

I walked into the shop yesterday and he was putting decals on the windshields with our last name on it, so he’s right out there in the shop doing things. Luckily, they leave the more skilled tasks to the more skilled people, but they throw  Sam some busy work to help out around there for sure. It’s a good time at SHR. Sam creates a great fun work environment. Everybody enjoys working themselves so I’m loving working there.

#26: Kaz Grala, Sam Hunt Racing, Toyota Racing Development Toyota Supra

Last question for you. You mentioned you’ve driven a bunch of different stuff from late models to K&N and Legends – now Xfinity and Truck. What would you like to drive that you haven’t been able to drive yet?

That’s an excellent question. I want to drive the Next Gen cars more on the intermediate ovals. I’m curious to see how those handle. I did the Coke 600 (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) in a Next Gen car, but were not really good – so I don’t feel like I’ve got a good gauge of what those cars should feel like on a track like that. But someday, I’m sure this will never happen, I would love to drive a Formula 1 car – just test one. I don’t want to race it – my goals aren’t lofty.

Just to say you’ve done it, right?

Yeah. I just simply want to take a couple laps just to see the grip level those cars have, because I love driving them on iRacing. That’s my go-to on iRacing and I have a blast with it. it would be really cool to drive one in real life, and I have tested at Daytona Prototype before – back when they were called them so it’s been a few years, and that had a lot more downforce than I’m used to in anything. So that was probably eight percent of the way there to a Formula 1 car, so that’s pretty cool. I’d like to race one of those now. They look like they’d be a lot of fun to race. I like to drive anything and everything.

I want to stay NASCAR forever as that’s my focus, that’s my favorite. But I do have fun driving other things so I’ll take anything I can get.

Well, they do say that the sky is the limit and dreams come true so hey, you never know. You may get the chance down the road.

Right? There’s been a few NASCAR drivers that have gotten to test drive Formula 1 cars so maybe someday 15 years from now, I can find myself in that situation. That’d be pretty cool.

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