In the buildup to the race at Daytona, poor old Austin Dillon had to pull out. As it turned out, the Richard Childress Racing driver tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. With Dillon out of action, the team called upon Kaz Grala to race in his stead, thus facilitating his NASCAR Cup Series debut.
Safe to say, Grala was over the moon when he got the call-up from team owner Richard Childress. At Daytona, Kaz Grala fulfilled several dreams. This included battling and holding his own against his childhood hero, Jimmie Johnson.
To cap it all off, the 21-year-old ended his debut Cup Series race in an impressive seventh on the Daytona Road Course. It is worth mentioning that he stormed to 7th, a day after Childress recruited him to the team on a temporary basis.
“Well, as far as sinking in, I’ll have to get back with you on that maybe sometime midweek, but the last 24 hours a lot of things have moved very quickly,” said Grala.
“It’s certainly been overwhelming. But I did, as you said, took my time on the grid and on the pace laps to really soak it in and understand the gravity of that moment.
“It’s unbelievable to be racing in the Cup Series under any circumstances but to do it in the No. 3 car was just incredible.”
Apparently, the #3 is special for the 21-year-old rookie, because it was his father’s number. So it was a surreal experience to race with that very number at the Daytona Road Course.
He is truly grateful to the team owner and the team for having faith in him. According to him, the plan was to just get used to the car in Sunday’s Go Bowling 235.
This is largely because the car was mostly tailored to fit the slightly shorter Dillon. Of course, since there was a driver change, he could not take over Dillon’s original grid slot and was forced to drop to the rear of the field.
With the first stage done and dusted, Grala was truly enjoying himself. He said on the radio, “I like this car. This is fun!”
However, disaster struck in the closing stages as he lined up 13th at the restart. He had to fight off muscle cramps during the race. However, he managed to jump up six spots for a solid Top-10 finish.