Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (16679)

Race Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 2 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

Harvick started 23rd and finished 16th.

● Climbed to 21st after 10 laps.

● Pitted for fuel only during a caution period on lap 16. Restarted in 16th on lap 18.

● “Loose” was how Harvick described his No. 4 Mobil 1/O’Reilly Auto Parts Ford Mustang on lap 36.

● Harvick radioed on lap 48, “Don’t have enough rear grip,” as his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer passed him for 14th.

● Pitted for four tires and fuel on lap 79. Made a slight air pressure adjustment to front tires and added tape to grill opening.

“Splitter is hitting the ground. Vibrates terrible,” said Harvick on lap 83 shortly after the pit stop.

● Stayed out at the end of the stage and gained valuable track position. Was one of only six drivers not to pit.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):

Harvick started fourth and finished 16th.

● Jumped up to second place following lap-92 restart. Dropped to sixth by lap 98, but got back to fifth by lap 100 before settling back into sixth a few laps later.

● Made a scheduled, green-flag pit stop on lap 144 for four tires and fuel. Only adjustment was to tire pressures.

● Caution on lap 150 caught Harvick a lap down. He took wave-around to get back on lead lap. Restarted 14th on lap 158.

“Can’t drive it on restarts,” said Harvick on lap 168. “Vibrates so bad I’m out of control on restarts.”

Pitted for four tires and fuel at the end of the stage, with adjustments to left-rear and right-rear wedge.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 171-334):

Started 18th and finished eighth.

● Uncontrolled tire from pit stop at end of Stage 2 sent Harvick to the tail end of the longest line for lap-177 restart.

● Climbed to 14th by lap 200.

● Rose to seventh by lap 230 as green-flag pit stops cycled through.

Made a scheduled, green-flag pit stop on lap 238 for four tires and fuel with a right-rear wedge adjustment.

● Returned to 14th position by lap 250 after pit-stop cycle had been completed.

● “Too loose. All over the place,” said Harvick on lap 254 while running 14th.

● Took advantage of caution on lap 257 and pitted for four tires and fuel. Restarted 13th on lap 260, but dropped to 15th shortly thereafter.

● Cracked the top-10 on lap 282.

● Last round of green-flag pit stops began on lap 300, allowing Harvick to climb up the leaderboard.

● Pitted under green for fuel only on lap 319. Returned to the track in eighth, and held position through the finish.

 

Notes:

● Harvick earned his sixth top-10 of the season and his 21st top-10 in 33 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.

● This was Harvick’s 10th straight top-10 at Texas and his 13th top-10 in his last 15 start at Texas.

● Denny Hamlin won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 to score his 33rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his third at Texas. His margin of victory over second-place Bowyer was 2.743 seconds.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 29 laps.

● Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 finished on the lead lap.

● Kyle Busch leaves Texas as the championship leader with an eight-point advantage over second-place Hamlin.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1/O’Reilly Auto Parts Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“Our day was a disaster. Our car drove terrible and that pretty much sums it up.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Food City 500 on Sunday, April 7 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FS1.

TSC PR

For the first half of Sunday’s 500 miler at Texas Motor Speedway, Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were having their best run of the season.

Menard started 14th and quickly drove his way into the top 10. He finished sixth in the first 85-lap Stage and fifth in the second, earning 11 stage points, his first since the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

He was running third in the early laps of the third and final segment of the race when a loose wheel forced him to pit road for an unscheduled pit stop at Lap 194 of 334. Menard dropped to 28th place, battled back to 19th and ended the race in that position.
 
Eddie Wood said he and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew were disappointed with the final outcome but buoyed by the team’s performance in the first half of the race.
 
“The car was really fast, and Paul and the team did a great job,” Wood said. “We got our first Stage points since the Duels at Daytona, and we were able to consistently run in the top 10 and the top five.”
 
Wood pointed out that Menard continued his determined drive for the remainder of the race, but the breaks didn’t go his way. 

“Paul wound up getting back on the lead lap at one point, but the caution flag flew at just the wrong time, and we missed the chance to get back on the lead lap and be in good shape again,” he said. 
 
With 80 laps to go, Menard was in position to regain his lap should the caution flag fly, but that needed caution, for debris from Daniel Hemric’s blown tire, caught him on pit road and the opportunity was lost.
 
Wood said there are positives to take from an otherwise disheartening day.
 
“It was clear that we have the speed to run up front,” he said. “We just need to put a whole race together.”
 
Menard and the Wood Brothers will be back on the track this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
 

WBR PR

Denny Hamlin won Sunday's NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, overcoming two pit road penalties over the course of the afternoon.

For Hamlin, this is his second win of the season and 33rd of his career. Driver No. 11 also won the Daytona 500 earlier this year.

Rounding out the top five were Clint Bowyer in second, Daniel Suarez in third, Erik Jones in fourth and Jimmie Johnson in fifth.

Erik Jones claimed his second top five finish of the year and Clint Bowyer earned his second top five finish and best finish of the year. Daniel Suarez earned his first top five finish with his new team Stewart-Haas Racing. Jimmie Johnson, who is looking to rebound on his past season struggles would earn his first top five finish of the season.

Hamlin had to overcome two separate penalties for speeding and an uncontrolled tire.

"Just a fast car. They gave me a car that could really pass anyone in the field," Denny Hamlin told FOX Sports. "That means a lot. It definitely was a different type of race here, trying to draft and everything and trying to get out of everyone's way."

Kyle Busch who was going for the weekend sweep, winning both the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race on Friday and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday led a race-high 66 laps but was forced to pit with only 53 laps to go after getting into the wall. Driver No. 18 would overcome to finish tenth.

All three of Team Penske's drivers had a bad day Brad Keselowski (mechanical issues), Joey Logano (pit road penalty) and Ryan Blaney (engine problems) finishing outside the top fifteen.

Notable Kyle Larson finished 39th after he wrecked during Stage 2.

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series will head into Bristol Motor Speedway next Sunday, April 7th in the running of the Food City 500. Live coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.

Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano

Stage 2 Winner: Denny Hamlin

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

As he did for much of his racing career, Stewart-Haas Racing's Daniel Suarez forged his own path in qualifying Friday night for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (on Sunday, March 31 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

While his fellow competitors hesitated to make a lap, Suarez darted out onto the track alone. Ultimately, he was rewarded with a fourth-place qualifying effort at Texas Motor Speedway.

Suarez faced a similar challenging situation in NASCAR. No other Mexican driver had ascended through the top national tours to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series—until Suarez arrived as part of the Drive 4 Diversity program.

As a teenager, Suarez gained experience and exposure on the short tracks of Mexico. At 19, he added the NASCAR K&N Pro Series to his schedule. Visits to Richmond Raceway, Iowa Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway prepared him for that next leap, but Suarez still lacked that mentor he could rely on to avoid the pitfalls of aspiring racers.

“I watched Adrian Fernandez a lot,” Suarez said of the 54-year-old Mexico City racer who ran 10 Xfinity Series races between 2005-2008. “But when I came here to the U.S., I didn’t have anyone from Mexico or Latin America that I could go to to ask a question.”

Now, Suarez serves as a role model for other aspiring Hispanic racers.

“Today, there are a handful of kids that call me from Mexico that want to come here and are asking for my advice,” Suarez added. “Slowly, I am becoming ‘that guy’ for a lot of kids in Mexico. I’m very proud to be able to help them and try to be that person that I didn’t have when I was coming here.”

This year, Suarez has found a new home with Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s experiencing a level of comfort with crew chief Billy Scott and the No. 41 SHR Ford Mustang team that was missing in his meteoric rise to Cup. Last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Suarez posted his second top-10 finish of the season. Plus, his fourth-place qualifying run last night was his best since joining the team.

“I’m happier,” Suarez said. “It’s always good to be with a group of guys like this. Last year, I wasn’t happy. It was just a little bit different and this year I’m more relaxed and just hoping to do my thing and I feel like we have more speed. Last year, there was a lot of inconsistency. Right now, I feel like we’re consistent and moving in the right direction.

“Last year was different, but for sure I’m more happy and more relaxed. My team, Billy Scott is a great crew chief. I have great engineers and a lot of good people behind me and I feel like we’re gonna do great things together. We just have to be patient and try to keep working in the direction we’re going so far.  I don’t feel like we are where we want to be yet, but we have to be patient.”

 

JIMMIE JOHNSON IS GOING THE DISTANCE

Jimmie Johnson knows how to pace himself through the NASCAR season.

His effort has paid off with seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series titles and 83 career wins.

While many of his fellow competitors will head for the beach for spring break in two weeks, Johnson will compete in the 2019 Boston Marathon. After spending the last four months training for his first full marathon, the 43-year-old racer feels he’s up for the task.

“It is probably hour most days, and maybe two days where it is an hour and a half or two hours for a run just to get the mileage in,” Johnson said. “It is a lot less than I have done in years past training for triathlons and some cycling events I have done. Running is much more efficient. You can get a lot done in a shorter period of time.

“I am thankful that the bulk of my mileage is behind me and I am starting a process called tapering. This week mileage cuts back, next week even more and then the following week we are at the marathon. We’ve tore the body down, now it is time to rebuild it and get ready and heal up to run my 26.2 on April 15th.”

This year’s NASCAR schedule was ideal for Johnson to knock the Boston Marathon off of his bucket list. With Richmond being a Saturday night race, Johnson has a full day to recover before undertaking the challenge.

“I do feel good,” Johnson said. “I lost a month due to an injury and a cold. I know that is going affect my goal in a sense, but to go run such a major event on Patriots Day and what I hear about the experience, I’m just excited to have that chance. It’s going to be a fun day.”

 

FINAL PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS

Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin was fastest in final practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with a speed of 186.987 mph. Hamlin has made 26 series starts at Texas Motor Speedway posting two wins (2010 sweep) and 12 top 10s.

“The car has got good speed, said Hamlin following final practice. "I’m happy about that for sure. Just traffic is where we’re really trying to work on our car and trying to get it handling the best that we can.”

Polesitter Jimmie Johnson was fifth on the speed chart in final practice, but also led the best 10 consecutive lap averages chart with an average speed of 184.366 mph. Johnson has visited Victory Lane seven-times at Texas; including once from the pole (2012).

After surviving a challenging first round of qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, Paul Menard and the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane team advanced to Round Two and wound up posting the 14th best lap.

That means he’s set to start Sunday’s race from 14th place.

It’s the second straight week and the third time this season that Menard has qualified 14th.
 
The veteran driver started the day by posting the 13th fastest speed in Friday’s lone practice session with a best lap at 187.032 miles per hour.

In Round One of qualifying Menard had to overcome a couple of setbacks - one due to a spin by Alex Bowman that brought out the caution flag while he was at speed, and another when he was penalized for speeding on pit road.
 
It took another attempt against the clock to post a lap at 185.778 miles per hour, which was good enough for 22nd place, which meant he’d advance to the second of three rounds.
 
His lap in the second round, at 186.677 mph, became his official qualifying speed. 
 
Menard said in his post-qualifying comments to the media that the group qualifying format combined with the new higher downforce-lower horsepower handling package plus recent adjustments to the qualifying rules put new elements of strategy into qualifying.
 
For instance, for the second session he lined his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang up at the front of the pack on pit road.
 
“I want to be up front because you have way more options,” he said. “If you’re in the back it’s hard to get around for two laps, so if you’re up front you can kind of force your way in the line where you want to be.”
 
Even though he came a couple of spots shy of advancing to the final round, Menard said he felt good about where he and his team are when it comes to preparation for Sunday’s race.

 “We were just too loose in qualifying,” he said. “We were really good in practice and just too loose in qualifying, so we’ll just go back and look at it.”
 
Sunday’s 500-miler is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (3 p.m. Eastern Time) on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX. 

WBR PR

A manufacturer switching to a new model often brings trials and tribulations as teams sort through the quirks that arise during the acclimation process. Rarely does a manufacturer come out of the gate strong, seemingly having perfected with aplomb the changeover to new body style.

And yet, here Ford is six races into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season having already won three times with its new Mustang. Giving little indication that the manufacturer lost any of the performance it flexed last season when Ford drivers, behind the wheel of Fusions, combined to win 19 of 36 races and Ford collected its first manufacturer championship since 2002.

Leading Ford’s charge through the early portion of the season are Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Keselowski drove the Mustang to its first-ever victory Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with Joey Logano following with a win the next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And Keselowski delivered another victory in a dominate performance last week at Martinsville Speedway, leading 446 of a possible 500 laps. (Toyota-supported Joe Gibbs Racing has won the other three races.)

“I think it takes a lot to win at this level and a lot of things have to come together,” Keselowski said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “If I was to look at a few key points, I would say one of them is from Ford Motor Company and the efforts that they’ve put in.

“They made a couple really nice moves over the last two or three years that probably culminated when they were in a better position to roll out the Mustang than they would have been elsewise to where the Mustang came out, and I don’t think we missed a step. I think we probably took a step forward with the Mustang.”

Though Team Penske is the lone Ford-backed team to thus far win this season, other organizations within the Ford camp have also been strong. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is third in the series standings, teammate Aric Almirola is sixth, and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse is 12th. And while it may be early, Ford drivers provisionally hold eight of the 16 Playoff berths.

Stenhouse’s position in the standings is especially indicative of the speed Ford has brought not just to Team Penske and SHR, which have collectively carried the Ford banner for the past three seasons, but how the new Mustang body style has seemingly lifted every Ford team. Stenhouse says Roush has notably lacked speed in recent years on intermediate-sized tracks like the 1.5-mile Texas oval, but that has changed this season. Once a weakness is now becoming a strength.

“For us, the mile-and-a-half program is something that we look forward to right now,” Stenhouse said. “I would say over the last four or five years we kind of dreaded going to the mile-and-a-halves; we were just OK. We weren’t great and right now I think our cars are good and they’re strong and fast on the mile-and-a-halves if we don’t make mistakes or put ourselves in a bad spot.”

And that multiple Ford teams are finding success with the Mustang isn’t lost on the driver who’s already got two wins to his credit in 2019. It was all part of the master plan.

“Some strong decisions made by Ford Motor Company that have kind of been high tides for all ships,” Keselowski said. “If I was to look at anything, I would say that’s probably the biggest factor and it’s come together this year with the new car and the rules changes.”

Jimmie Johnson is back in the saddle again.

After leading first practice at Texas Motor Speedway and the first two rounds of qualifying, the seven-time champion bumped his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott from the top spot with seconds remaining in the final round with a lap at 188.890 mph to win the pole for Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 (at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The Busch Pole Award is the first for Johnson in 96 races, 36th of his career and his second at the 1.5-mile track.

“It’s been a long couple of years and we still have a ways to go and certainly race day is much more important than Friday,” said Johnson after earning his 36th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup pole. “We’re working so hard and I think we’re a bit guilty of trying too hard and maybe stepping outside of our comfort zone at times and putting set-ups on the car that just quite aren’t proven yet.

“With all that said, we were very aggressive coming here, changed a lot of stuff around on our mile-and-a-half program. Top of the charts all day long. It’s a great start. I’m really proud of everybody keeping the faith and working hard.”

William Byron, who crossed the line after Johnson, topped Elliott for second in time trials.

"That is just a credit to the guys really, just giving us a fast car,” Byron said. “Teamwork man. Just keeping the communication down to get that hole that we did. Just teamwork. So it’s all good. It’s awesome.”

Daniel Suarez’s strategy of making a single-car run and not relying on the draft paid off for the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang. He finished fourth in Round 2 to advance to the Final Round. He’ll roll off fourth on Sunday.

“I was planning to go by myself without helping anyone, so I waited until everyone was shut off so I could go quick and they didn’t have time to re-fire and then go,” Suarez said. “That part played out well. The part that we just missed a little bit is that we were expecting them to make more mistakes or to wait a little bit longer, but they didn’t.

“It was a good effort. That was our gamble. We were out of trouble and the car was good, fast and we didn’t have to work as hard as they did that’s for sure.”

Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Hemric, Joey Logano, Ty Dillon and Bubba Wallace rounded out the top 10.

With four minutes remaining in the first round of qualifying, Alex Bowman bounced off the wall in Turn 2. He had posted the seventh-fastest lap to advance to the next round, but was unable to continue. Bowman was seen and released from the infield care center.

“I think Alex would have been right there if he hadn’t had his problems in Round 1,” Johnson added.

Jimmie Johnson, currently on a 65-race winless streak, has won seven times at Texas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; including once from the pole (2012).

Kevin Harvick will not be trading in his fire suit for a business suit on a fulltime basis anytime soon, making it emphatically clear Friday at Texas Motor Speedway he is not planning to retire at the end of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

There has been increased speculation as of late that Harvick may retire when the current season concludes, vacating his spot as driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang to become an FOX Sports analyst. The Sports Business Journal reported Friday that FOX Sports analyst Darrell Waltrip may retire after this season, and Harvick is considered by many within the industry as the leading contender to replace Waltrip.

That Harvick, 43, would move to broadcasting after his racing career reaches the finish line is something he is interested in pursuing and he has taken multiple steps to acclimate himself for when that time comes. He has moonlighted in recent years as a Fox Sports analyst during the network’s broadcast of NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series races, and began hosting a weekly show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last year.

But while Harvick is preparing himself for when he does decide to retire, he is adamant that he will not be making that fulltime switch in the immediate future. He said his contract with SHR runs through the 2021 season.

“I’m not getting out of the race car,” Harvick said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “I feel really comfortable with where I’m at as far as how I feel in the race car, where my home life is as far as balance with my kids. I feel fairly confident that being a part of the TV side of things is something that I want to do in the future, but it’s not gonna happen in the next couple of years I can tell you that.

“We have a lot of things that are going really well, the race car is one of them. There’s no way that happens.”

On the performance side, there is no reason for Harvick to consider retirement. He has been a perennial title contender since joining SHR five years ago, winning the 2014 championship, finishing runner-up in 2015, and third on three other occasions. And last season, Harvick led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in several major statistical categories -- including wins, top-five finishes, top-10 finishes and laps led.

Though Harvick is thus far winless through six races in 2019, he does have five top-10 finishes. He enters Texas ranked third in the series standings, trailing leader Kyle Busch by 21 points.

“There’s so much to do with being competitive in this sport, there’s so much to do with experience,” Harvick said. “If it’s going good, why wouldn’t you want to keep going? There’s too many things that I still enjoy about it.

“The more you talk to people who retired and did things it’s always like, ‘Man, I wish I would have just stayed in the competitive situation I was in and not tried to do something different or quit too soon.”

Chris Buescher doesn’t have a bag of tricks to deploy at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the introduction of a new aerodynamic package on a surface that was paved two years ago just might help.

The Prosper, Texas, native knows it takes more than magic to run well at his home track. Since the 1.5-mile venue was repaved in 2017, the surface has been lightning fast. Fortunately, the advances JTG Daugherty Racing has made this season have bolstered Buescher’s confidence entering this Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“Everybody has been trying to work with this package, and we spent a lot more time and resources getting everything ready to hit the ground running,” Buescher said. “We don't have to spend all the resources that we don't have trying to find all these tricks and things. It has been a way for us to try and get closer to the field.

“I don't think it took and changed the running order. I think we still see the dominant cars are the dominant cars, but we are just a lot closer. We have gotten into the next group of cars and I know the work that we have put into it and everybody back at the shop has, has paid off.”

Comparing Buescher's last five starts of this season to the same timeframe last year and the driver of the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has improved by an average eight positions on the race track.

Buescher is looking for similar improvements at Texas. He scored his first top-15 finish in the spring race last year in his sixth career start.

“Since the repave, I have actually enjoyed Texas quite a bit,” Buescher said. “I liked it before, but we have run better with it the way that it is. And I don't really have an explanation why, it really doesn't make sense. The track being so different from one end to the other it has been a big challenge for us set up wise.

Buescher wouldn’t be surprised if Sunday’s action in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is reminiscent of the wild, wild west as drivers running wide open with this package. He’s predicting cars barreling into Turn 1 five-wide on the restarts and more side-by-side racing with the additional downforce and slower entry speeds.

“With (turns) one and two being as wide as they are, it’s going to be wild, wild restarts,” Buescher said. “The groove has not come in yet. So, I don’t know how that is going to work. (Turns) 3 and 4 was pretty close to wide open with the old package. Lots of grip over there and lots of banking, very fast.

“So, with this one, I know we will be wide open. I just don’t know, being that there is enough banking to hold it, it might widen out better than it has in the past. That is my hope. I think you are going to see a different race at Texas than we have had with the other package. In my mind, it should maybe change a little bit more than the others have.”

 

KAZ GRALA IS ONLY FOCUSING ON RACING

Kaz Grala has sat on the sidelines since the 2019 NASCAR season started.

But he hasn’t been idle.

The new driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet has visited the Welcome, N.C.-based shop every day. He has logged hundreds of laps on both the GM and RCR simulators. He has watched nine hours of film from previous Texas Motor Speedway Xfinity races to prepare for this weekend.

The work paid off. Grala posted the third-fastest lap in first practice for Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 (at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“It’s been tough watching the races knowing that I wish I could be in them,” Grala said. “I’ve been quite busy actually. RCR is unbelievable with how many resources they have and how many tools. I almost feel like having a part-time schedule can be a plus.

“Having seat time for the other drivers, they’re fresh and warmed up after the first five races. I’m coming in cold…but I’ve been able to put in more work and preparation.”

In 2018, Grala ran 22 of 33 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in his first year on the tour. The first 10 races he competed with JGL Racing. Grala ran the balance of his schedule with Fury Race Cars. His best results were two top-five finishes at Daytona and a pair of top 10s at Charlotte—on the oval and the Roval. Grala finished 26th in the Xfinity Series race at Texas last April.

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