Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Fraternal Order of Eagles Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● The Fraternal Order of Eagles returns to the No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse as Justin Haley is set to make his fourth start at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas. Haley’s best finish at the 3.426-mile, 20-turn road course came in 2022, when he started ninth and finished 15th.

● The 24-year-old from Winimac, Indiana, has made 18 road-course starts in the Cup Series with two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He led 23 laps en route to a runner-up finish at last year’s inaugural Chicago Street Race.

● Haley also competed in the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at COTA, the first NASCAR race run on at the track, and earned a ninth-place result. In total, he owns four top-fives and 10 top-10s in 16 Xfinity Series road-course starts, including two runner-up finishes – 2020 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 2021 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.

● Prior to racing on road courses in NASCAR, Haley competed in the Trans Am Series TA2 class. In 2015, the then 16-year-old driver set the track record at COTA in qualifying.

● Last Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Haley and teammate Kaz Grala had the best showing of the year for RWR. Both drivers ran as high as sixth, but severe tire wear affected teams all day, ultimately forcing the Rick Ware Racing (RWR) duo outside of the top-15 in the closing laps. Despite the extreme tire fall-off, it was the first time both RWR cars finished within the top-20 at Bristol. The drivers also improved on the previous best average running positions by RWR cars in a Cup Series race with a 14.7 average running position for Haley and 18.8 for Grala.

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

● Grala, driver of the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse, will make his second Cup Series start at COTA on Sunday. He completed all 69 laps in the 2022 race to earn a 25th-place finish.

● In 2020, Grala made his first career Cup Series start in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing entry on the Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway road course. He started 10th in the field of 39 cars and led three laps en route to a seventh-place finish. In 18 Xfinity Series starts on road courses, Grala has earned four top-fives and six top-10s.

● Grala also owns one Xfinity Series start at COTA, resulting in an 18th-place finish in 2023. He will return to the Xfinity Series on Saturday, competing for RSS Racing in the No. 28 Ford.

● The Boston native is no stranger to making left and right turns. In 2014, at the age of 15, Grala entered the Michelin Pilot Challenge to become the youngest driver ever to compete in an IMSA event. Two years later, he made his debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, where he was the youngest driver in the field, piloting a car for RWR president Robby Benton.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● NHRA Top Fuel driver Clay Millican and the Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing Series are back on track this weekend at the Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California. Two weeks ago, Millican competed in the season-opening Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, where the Parts Plus driver qualified 10th but was bested by Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations. A three-time winner for RWR, Millican started the year setting fast time in the first round of qualifying at the PRO Superstart Shootout exhibition event in Bradenton, Florida, Feb. 8-10. He stayed atop the leaderboard to secure the No. 1 qualifying position, then advanced to the final round of eliminations.

● In Senoia, Georgia, Progressive American Flat Track (AFT) drivers Briar Bauman, Kody Kopp and Shayna Texter-Bauman will be back on track for the second event of 2024. In the season kickoff at Daytona two weeks ago, 19-year-old Kody Kopp took home a win in the Thursday-night AFT Singles feature by a margin of 1.502 seconds. The two-time champion followed up with a second-place finish in the Friday feature.

● 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

How do you envision Sunday’s race at COTA will play out for you?

“These races are long, and they play out in all kinds of different ways. So, I feel like I’ve been fast at COTA before and I feel like I’ve struggled at COTA before. We just have to try to do the best we can. There’s some confidence, I feel like as a driver you can make a bigger difference at a road course, you’re just trying to do your best.”

You and the RWR team showed marked improvement at Bristol last weekend. Should everyone expect to see that continue?

“I think so. This is a building season. Everyone considers RWR to be a lower-level team, so I’m excited for this to continue. Personally, I find a lot of enjoyment in this process and I feel like we can have some great finishes. I do think it’ll take some time just to kind of get everyone meshing together, but we’re seeing that already take place. It’s hard to put a new quarterback onto a team and then just expect him to play. He doesn’t know his guys and that’s kind of what we’re working through. We’re going to have some good finishes and and, most importantly, we’re going to have a lot of fun with it.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

You have a lot of experience on road courses, whether it be in sportscar or in stock cars. How are you feeling ahead of the first road-course event of the year?

“I’ve been looking forward to the road courses. With extra time on track in practice, we’ll be able to get ourselves in a good place with the handling and I feel like I know what I need for these types of races. I’ve won some sportscar races at COTA and run well in NASCAR, so I think we have potential to get a decent finish.”

You’re running Saturday’s Xfinity Series race this weekend, as well. What kind of benefit does that provide?

“It’s a huge help to get additional track time for the road-course events. Not so much to help the car itself, because they drive completely differently, but to have the extra laps to get familiar with the track and find those spots where you can push a little harder for a big payoff come Sunday.”

What has been the impact of the Bristol run?

“We’ve known from the beginning that we’re capable of running well. Coming in to a new team, you know it’s going to take time, but it was nice to have that moment early in the season to show other people that we can do it. The morale in the shop has been great since Justin’s run at the Clash, but it’s definitely improved after Bristol and I think we can keep it going.”