Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Ohanafy Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Justin Haley, driver of the No. 51 Ohanafy Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Rick Ware Racing (RWR), will make his fourth start at Bristol Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series race. The .533-mile track set in the mountains of East Tennessee played host to the series’ only dirt race each spring for the last three years. But no more, as The Last Great Colosseum will once again host both of its races this year on its iconic, high-banked concrete surface.

● In three starts on the traditional concrete surface, Haley has a best finish of 12th earned in September 2022. The 24-year-old also owns six NASCAR Xfinity Starts at Bristol with two top-10s.

● Bristol is the site of Haley’s career-first NASCAR national series start. On Aug. 19, 2015, a 16-year-old Haley made his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start from the 21st position and took the checkered flag 14th against the likes of reigning Cup Series champion, Ryan Blaney, and the winningest driver in NASCAR history, Kyle Busch.

● After its first appearance two weekends ago at Las Vegas, Ohanafy – a management platform for beverage and beyond – returns to the No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for the first short-track race of the year.

● Ohanafy is redefining the beverage industry by harnessing the power of Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM. The mission is clear: to empower beverage producers and distributors to reclaim their time and focus on crafting exceptional beverages while streamlining production and distribution operations. Built on innovation, excellence, and quality, Ohanafy offers a robust, cloud-based solution that revolutionizes how beverage companies operate. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, it enables data-driven decision-making, leading to optimized processes, increased profitability, and reduced costs.

● Last Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway saw the debut of NASCAR’s enhaced short-track package. Despite qualifying 33rd, Haley and the No. 51 team made improvements over the race’s 312 laps and brought home a 24th-place finish, RWR’s best ever at Phoenix.

Kaz Grala, Driver of the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Sunday’s Food City 500 marks Kaz Grala’s first Cup Series short-track start and he will once again pilot the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

● In two Xfinity Series starts at Bristol, Grala has a best finish of 10th earned last September. He’s finished no worse than 20th in eight of 13 Xfinity Series short-track starts. Grala also owns two top-five finishes in the ARCA Menards Series East at Bristol (2015 and 2016).

● In three races behind the wheel of the No. 15 RWR entry, Grala has a best finish of 14th earned Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and has completed 836 of 839 laps – 99.6 percent.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● For the first time since 2021, the Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup Series will head to Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway, where RWR drivers Cody Ware and Preston Pardus are set to compete in a weekend doubleheader that will make up rounds three and four of the 2024 schedule. Wednesday will see the pair practice and qualify for the first of two 45-minute races, set for Thursday afternoon on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn road circuit. Thursday’s results will the lineup for the Friday morning’s race. Both MX-5 Cup races will be streamed live on RACER.com and IMSA.tv.

● The Progressive American Flat Track (AFT) season kicked off last week with two-time AFT Singles champion Kody Kopp taking the win in his heat race and Al Lambs’ Dallas Honda Challenge exhibition race before running away with his first victory of the seaon in the main event. Kopp, who joined the RWR lineup just a week before the start of the season, took control of the race at mid-distance and took the checkered flag by a 1.502-second margin.

● Rick Ware has been a motorsports mainstay for more than 40 years. It began at age six when the third-generation racer began his driving career and has since spanned four wheels and two wheels on both asphalt and dirt. Competing in the SCCA Trans Am Series and other road-racing divisions led Ware to NASCAR in the early 1980s, where he finished third in his NASCAR debut – the 1983 Warner W. Hodgdon 300 NASCAR Grand American race at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. More than a decade later, injuries would force Ware out of the driver seat and into fulltime team ownership. In 1995, Rick Ware Racing was formed, and with wife Lisa by his side, Ware has since built his eponymous organization into an entity that fields two fulltime entries in the NASCAR Cup Series while simultaneously campaigning successful teams in the Top Fuel class of the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, the LMP3 class of the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX), where RWR won the 2022 SX2 championship with rider Shane McElrath.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

Where does Bristol rank on your list of favorite tracks?

“Bristol is an awesome track. I actually made my first NASCAR national series start there in a truck, so it’s always been a special place for me. I’ve always run pretty strong there. I finished sixth in the spring Bristol race last year but the track had dirt on it and they took that away, so I’m not sure how I’ll fair now. But, I love Bristol and it’s obviously one of a kind. It’s a cool place to race, so I’d say it’s pretty high.”

Sunday’s race at Phoenix was very trying for the No. 51 team, but you came out with a top-25 finish. What’s your mindset now, and how do you push through to the next race after tough races like the one you had last weekend?

“I’m good. I felt like we improved a lot by the end of the race. Learned a lot and are just steadily building up our notebook. You’re going to have those days, especially with a new team, but I just can’t let that stick with me. I’m in such a relaxed environment now. There’s pressure, but I’m at it every week. We’re all growing and building together and this team is relying on me and trusting me to do my part to be successful. I appreciate everything these guys do every week to get better and I feel like they truly appreciate me. As a racecar driver, you really can’t ask for anything more meaningful than a team that will go to battle with you and win and lose with you.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

As a driver who grew up short-track racing, this must be your favorite part of the season with Bristol, Richmond (Va.) Raceway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway coming up over the next four weeks. What are you most looking forward to?

“I’m just excited to get to the short tracks, in general. I feel like that is where I can really do the most to give us a good result, but I’m also still learning the NextGen car, so we’ll definitely have to pack our patience and take what we can get. These tracks that are coming up are all so different but we’ll be able to learn something we can take to each, so hopefully we can build up some good momentum.”

What is the key to being successful at Bristol?

“Bristol is one of the coolest places we visit. If you get your car handling well, it could be a really good day and, as a driver, you really have to be able to find your rhythm and stick to it. Hopefully I can do that early on. The biggest thing everyone will face is staying out of the mess that is bound to happen at some point. Things happen quickly on a track as short and fast as Bristol, so staying focused goes a long way.”