December 8, 2022
  • December 8, 2022

Kaz Grala – Duel #1 after the race Media Availability

By on February 18, 2022 0

THE MODERATOR: Joining us now is the driver of the #50 Chevrolet Pit Viper for TMT Racing, and that’s Kaz Grala, who made his way to the Daytona 500 on Sunday. What does it do?

KAZGRALA: It’s a relief, I can tell you. I thought for a moment that we weren’t going to make it and I broke down just on the last lap. I made a mistake early on, accelerated on pit road, this shouldn’t have happened. Barely returned.

We were doing fast lap times in that line towards the end, and I knew we were going to be close. I thought we might have a chance to catch him and the timing was perfect. On the last lap we caught up with him, we passed him and that’s what we had to do to do the 500.

It’s huge for The Money Team Racing, huge for Floyd, for Pit Viper. It meant a lot to us. There really was no choice but to do this race. We grinded through the skin of our teeth, got rid of the hiccups, and hopefully had a great Sunday.

  1. Talk about the emotional sway of the pit road penalty and then passing Yeley at the end.

KAZGRALA: He went from vomit to vomit, from nervous vomit to excited vomit at the end.

I was worried when we passed him on that last lap, I didn’t know if he was going to try something, try to block, shoot down in front of us. There was no hole for him, but I was worried about anything he might try because you have to try. That’s all we did.

It was a relief. When we caught up to him I could see there were two laps to go, I was like, I think we’ll get there, I really think we’ll get there. I couldn’t even believe it, but it worked.

Yes, huge relief. I always asked on the radio even after the checkered flag, I said to myself, are we in the game? Are we sure? Was it the last lap? Are we definitely ahead? And luckily we were.

Really happy right now. Disappointed with the mistake I made, but at least I fixed that, I figured out my dashboard. This was my first time working with this dashboard tonight, so I won’t have any issues with it in the future. Really excited for the team no matter how we came in.

But hey, I went into the night saying we were going to get there. I would like to at least do it in an exciting way, so it was more exciting than I wanted to be, but it was exciting.

  1. You made the 500 last year; Was this one as chaotic knowing that you’re basically with an upstart team with some of the gear coming from Starcom? How vital is it for your career to succeed under these circumstances and also for Pit Viper as a principal?

KAZGRALA: I mean, it was definitely a lot busier before the weekend because we really started from scratch. We actually didn’t receive any hardware from Starcom Racing, so it was really all new, fresh Next Gen hardware, and we had about 30 days to try to put the car together.

It was hectic getting in there. Kaulig Racing last year had everything in place. It was an existing team; it was much easier, so pretty much turnkey, I came here and ran. But as far as Duel goes, I would say it’s been more eventful this year, at least stress-wise for me.

The two years I was in the Duel and I was in it and then I had something catastrophic go wrong and I knew I was out and I’m definitely going to be out and then miraculously exactly what had to happen happened the two years for me to enter.

Apparently I’m lucky in Duels, but I would have preferred to save my luck for Sunday. I hope I still have some left in the tank.

  1. Kaz, how long after getting the penalty did you think your chances were over, and how quickly did you recover? What was the real moment of truth in that last lap? What was the defining moment for you to get it?

KAZGRALA: Well, there were really about 12 laps to go and I thought we had a realistic chance of getting there. When we first shuffled after that penalty, we were pretty much alone. We picked up 41, but only the two of us weren’t going to be able to do anything until we picked up 55. I got embedded in that line there; Kurt Busch took me from behind.

That was the key for me. I needed a pusher. We really couldn’t hang on to a line of good cars as the last car tonight, so we’ll probably polish that up for Sunday and see if we can fit some speed into it. But that pusher was the key, and Kurt got us there.

I was looking at the lap times on my dash—apparently I knew how to use my dash by then—and we were racing fast. I knew what we were running on our own and I thought that’s what the close 55 was running, and I’m like, man, we’re really gonna win on him, but I didn’t know what the gap was was exactly.

So it wasn’t until about three or four laps from the end that I could see them and I thought to myself that it could happen. Really until the last lap there was no relief because like I said I didn’t know what Yeley was going to try. Had he had the chance to try jumping in that line, things could have gone wrong very quickly.

The key was that our line stayed formed and could roll past him from the bottom, not giving him the chance to jump past anyone. It was really a defining moment there, and then we just had to sail to the checkerboard. Certainly took years of my life. I’m sure Will Auchmoody, our team general manager, took decades out of his life because he’s even more emotional and nervous than I could ever be.

Yeah, it was way too hectic, but I’m glad we’re here. It’s going to be really, really exciting next Sunday to stand there for the national anthem.

  1. In the end, how much did your spotter help you stay calm?

KAZGRALA: He kept me calm. I asked him about the gap. I would have him tell me each lap when the 55 reached the start and finish line, and I would try to judge how much we were earning per lap because if I didn’t keep my mind busy thinking about doing the math, I was just gonna drive myself crazy.

I never gave up and I knew it was possible. If it was a later turn, all of this would have been for naught. It was exactly what was needed, nothing more.

But he definitely kept me calm. I have a new lookout upstairs. His name is Joe White, and I’ve never worked with him before, but he did a great job in dueling, did everything I expected of him. It would have been easy to get upset in the position of anyone in our team after accelerating down pit road, and he stayed connected, even faired and definitely helped keep my head up.

  1. After how long it took for this team to finally come together, to do the Daytona 500, does that show that’s why you persevered?

KAZGRALA: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why we did what we did, and that was race in the Daytona 500. We didn’t come into this week ready to accept another fate.

It’s important for us, being a new team, to be able to do that. It’s huge financially. It’s a huge exposure, the marketing. We want to have a part-time schedule this year. We want to try running some of the road courses, maybe some of the closer and less crowded races. Having a good show like this and hopefully having a good show on Sunday will go a long way in making this program what they aspire to be, a full-time opportunity, and I would love to stick with them for that.

  1. What is the plan for the rest of the season? Are you also going to do superspeedway races, road courses? Looks like it’s some kind of mixture. Do you have a number?

KAZGRALA: Yeah, maybe superspeedway racing. I would say less likely. It’s too risky for the car, and these Next Gen cars are so expensive that as a small team we should probably try to protect our equipment. But obviously this race is the Daytona 500. It’s the biggest race. It is the highest paid race. We must be here.

I would probably expect to pick tracks that particular sponsors want for our program or tracks that we think have the best potential. I feel like road courses are most likely our best bet simply because there are fewer of them; we will be less behind on the 8 ball with the other teams that are running full time. For us to go to a mile-and-a-half race, we’ll probably be way behind the other teams’ data.

We have our eye on trying to do the courses on the road. I love COTA. I would like to do COTA. This is the one we’ve circled and hope to do and I know we’ve already gotten sponsors for this race and we’re looking to wrap this up and fill the car up and be out there keep building this program .

  1. What does Floyd Mayweather look like as a team owner? Is he planning to be here for the 500?

KAZGRALA: I don’t have official confirmation on that, but it’s word on the street that he’ll probably be here on Sunday. He was with us on the grid via FaceTime before the Duel. He was so excited about it. He was ready, fired up and really confident in us. It was a cool pep talk to get, not one I’ve ever had before. Definitely a cool time for us and having this validation that he’s excited about this program, and I can promise you coming here in front of a sold out crowd on Sunday, I don’t think anyone can be on this property and not feel that energy and get excited.

He’s really going to get obsessed with it, like we all are.