Kaz Grala, Sam Hunt Racing A Perfect Fit In The NASCAR Xfinity Seriesby Hunter Thomas February 12, 2023 0 comments
Photo Credit: Daylon Barr Photography
For the first time in his career, Kaz Grala will have a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series ride in 2023, and Sam Hunt Racing will have its first full-time driver. At one point in their career’s, Grala and team owner Sam Hunt were competitors at the NASCAR Roots level, but now, the two journeymen are teaming up.
Grala is a 24-year-old Boston, Mass. native who started from the bottom and has raced his way into NASCAR’s national series. He spent his childhood competing on the grassroots level before reaching the former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and eventually, entering the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2016. Prior to 2023, the 2017 Truck Series season marked his only full-time effort in NASCAR’s national series, and that year, he won the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and went on to earn five top-five and 11 top-10 finishes; however, since then, Grala has been bouncing around the NASCAR industry, searching for the right fit.
“I definitely think that my journey has made me that much more humbled and appreciative of the opportunity because I was that 18-year-old kid that had a Truck Series ride and didn’t really know anything different other than racing full-time,” Grala said. “I’ve done that my whole life, and I was fortunate enough to be in a position to where that was possible, but of course, I struggled to get sponsorship over the last few years because this stuff is so expensive.”
However, one thing that has been consistent throughout his career is that he’s extremely talented on road courses, which is unique for a driver who has clocked many more laps on an oval. In August 2020, Grala finally earned his first-career NASCAR Cup Series start at the Daytona Road Course, and he finished seventh after starting the race in 10th while piloting Richard Childress Racing’s famous No. 3 Chevrolet, subbing in for Austin Dillon who tested positive for COVID-19. Last year, Grala finished seventh at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in July’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and fifth at Watkins Glen International in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“I would put myself as an oval guy that’s good on the road courses if I had to put a title to it,” Grala said. “I’ve done well at them over the past couple of years, and I love them. They probably are my favorite type of track; they’re a lot of fun. I’m pretty thrilled about the schedule in Xfinity this year having eight road courses on it. I think that’s really cool.”
Fast forward to 2022, and Grala will once again have an opportunity to finally settle in and compete full-time, and this time, it’ll be a level higher in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Sam Hunt Racing.
“I had known Kaz for a long time,” Hunt said. “We have always kind of been distant friends – a lot of respect for each other. I think him being kind of a journeyman driver and me being a journeyman owner, there has always been that kind of unspoken respect for having to grind our careers out.”
Not only is the consistency a plus for Grala, but the opportunity is also going to be of great benefit for Sam Hunt Racing. The young team that hit the track on the NASCAR national series level for the first time in 2019, has worked with 22 drivers overall and most recently, 10 drivers last season, many of whom who have had quite the experience, such as John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith and Jeffrey Earnhardt; however, as a team, they will take the next step and continue to grow by working with Grala week-after-week.
“I think having the consistency with Kaz is really the next big step in our program’s future,” Hunt said. “Last year, we had 10 guys, and I think before that, we had seven or eight, and it has been really fun to have a large cast of guys.”
Grala said, “I think it was a pretty easy decision with Sam Hunt Racing. I love the atmosphere over there. It’s definitely a family environment. Sam Hunt is not a whole lot older than me, so for a team owner, that’s super young, and I love that youth and the energy that he brings to the team. It definitely has a fun vibe over there.”
Grala is extremely excited to work with the Sam Hunt Racing No. 26 team. Not only are he and Hunt friends, but this particular opportunity features several aspects of the sport that Grala has never experienced before, such as the manufacturer support from Toyota Racing. The season hasn’t even gone green yet, and Grala has not only been witness to Toyota’s engineering support, but he now has a customized nutritional and fitness training program as well.
“It has been impressive and kind of a breath of fresh air to see coming into this, and it has just been in the off-season so far,” said Grala about the support from Toyota Racing. “I haven’t really gotten to the track with them yet. I definitely think that there’s a lot of potential here for Sam Hunt Racing, not just this year but for the future in general.”
Sam Hunt Racing will now embark on its third full-time season (fifth overall), and come mid-February at Daytona International Speedway, Grala will be making his 45th NASCAR Xfinity Series start. The duo will look to win at the 2.5-mile track, a facility where absolutely anything can happen, and they will also begin building on an effort that can elevate both of their careers.
“For me, it’s really special because I know how hard Kaz has worked for a full-time opportunity like this,” Hunt said. “I’ve been in Kaz’s shoes, and I know that he has had to work so hard for a little bit of stability, so it definitely makes it more enjoyable for me as the owner knowing how hard Kaz has worked for the opportunity.”
Recently, the team announced two new major sponsors. Charleston, South Carolina-based Island Brands USA, which is one of the fastest growing private companies in the country, will appear as the primary sponsor for 16 races this season as the company promotes its Island Coastal Lager and flavored malt beverage, CRUSH. The team has also inked a deal with will have Fire Dept. Coffee serving as the primary sponsor for 10 races in 2023.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300 will broadcast live on FS1 at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 18.