NASCAR Transcript: Kaz Grala – Press Conference – 02.15.24

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Kaz Grala who raced his way into the Daytona 500. Congratulations. Tell us a little bit about Duel No. 2 and what was going through your mind as the laps closed.

KAZ GRALA: That was a whole lot more intense than I hoped when it comes down to the end. Certainly a lot more intense than I wanted it to be coming down to the end. We had really good track position there after the caution. Just got shuffled out a little bit. Of course, end up racing the two open cars right there for the last two laps.

Glad we were able to come out on the right end. It was pretty tough to beat those guys tonight. The 78 ran a great race. The 60 car was pushing hard, too. I was glad that he helped me out a little bit. He picked my line there on the closing laps, which definitely worked in my favor against the 78. I appreciate the help there from David.

Yeah, just really proud of the Front Row Motorsports guys because the last 24 hours were pretty stressful, a lot of hard work to get the car repaired and ready for today.

I felt like it had good speed in it. The driver needed to pick up on some things. Did a little learning tonight. I feel like I know a lot more going into Sunday than I did going into this one.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.

Q. I’m sure it doesn’t get any easier having to qualify. Having gone through it a few times, does the experience help with your confidence or mental state?

KAZ GRALA: It certainly did going into the week. Then once you actually get to today, knowing the position that we were in because of last night, it was no less stressful (smiling).

Honestly, I think the biggest impact it had there was after the green-flag pit stop when we lost touch with the pack, normally you’d be down and out and not feeling too good about it. I’ve been in enough of these Duels to know that anything can happen. You’re never really out of it completely.

Just kept focused and confident that hopefully something would work out. Sure enough, things played into our favor there just enough, just by a couple of spots to get there.

Yeah, I hope someday to maybe have better Wednesday luck here because I have not locked in any of my three tries. I’ve had stressful Thursdays. I look forward to a relaxed Thursday someday in my life, I hope.

Q. We heard the radio transmission last night in qualifying. What happened and what repairs did you have to make?

KAZ GRALA: It was a really weird situation. Just a bolt backed out where the shifter rod actually connects to the transmission. After my first shift, I went to grab the second shift, and the shifter no longer worked. I tried to unjam it. It grabbed first gear, over-revved the engine.

Really weird situation there, haven’t season that. As a result, we ended up having to do an engine swap for today. That felt great tonight. I think we’re all set engine-wise. We got the bolt in the transmission and we’re ready to rock’n roll now.

Q. Did you breathe at all after the last restart until you crossed the line?

KAZ GRALA: No. We crossed the white. I see the 78 car, I mean, we’re literally like touching fenders. We got no safety net behind us, just the 60 car floating, who also could play a factor in who makes this.

That was as stressful as it could possibly have been. But I’m sure it was exciting to watch because just like the first Duel, you couldn’t have written a better storyline for the moments coming to the checkered to decide who is going to be in the field on Sunday.

Q. You have most of your season in the 15 with Rick, but how big a jolt is this for you to get your season off on the right foot?

KAZ GRALA: Absolutely, I guess everybody has seen it over the years. If you’re on the grid, you’ve got a shot at it when you’re here at Daytona.

I think, like I said, I’ve got a long list of things to try to clean up between now and the checkered flag on Sunday. But I do think that we’ve got a shot at it. Why not?

Front Row Motorsports has won the Daytona 500 before. Certainly everybody around me, the equipment under me, is capable of doing it. It comes down to trying to do it, do the best job you can, maybe find yourself in that position when the closing laps are here on Sunday.

Q. Riley Herbst and Ryan Blaney mentioned the pushing was a little bit more aggressive during this race. Do you feel that was due to the new panels on the cars?

KAZ GRALA: Honestly, I can’t speak to comparing packages. I’m pretty new at this Next Gen stuff.

I definitely thought that things looked somewhat aggressive out there. The cars were a lot less stuck than what I expected. They didn’t really love the pushes. That was good to know.

I’m sure for the 500, everything is just going to ratchet up in intensity and more aggression. I feel like the most important thing I learned tonight was track position is key. You can’t just decide to move your way forward when you’re ready to go like you can in Xfinity.

I think where you’re lined up is critical, and therefore you’re going to have guys pushing even early in the race just because you have to. It doesn’t seem like the right time yet, but I see why they do it now, so…

I’m sure the race here for the 500 is going to be exciting. Hopefully our 36 team can come out on the right end of it.

THE MODERATOR: Kaz, congratulations again. Best of luck on Sunday in the Daytona 500.

KAZ GRALA: Thank you very much.