Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Walmart Health & Wellness Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Justin Haley, driver of the No. 51 Walmart Health & Wellness Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Rick Ware Racing (RWR), heads to Richmond (Va.) Raceway for his seventh NASCAR Cup Series start at the .75-mile oval. Best of his previous Cup Series starts there was a 21st-place finish earned in August 2022.

● Haley owns two runner-up finishes at Richmond in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, earned in 2020 and 2021, and he’s finished in the top-10 four times. He made one start at Richmond in the ARCA Menards Series East in 2015, finishing 12th out of 35 cars.

● In the Cup Series’ most recent short-track race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway two weekends ago, Haley ran within the top-15 for most of the 500-lap race. In a race that saw drivers battle significant tire fall-off, he was on track for a top-10 finish until the final five laps when tire wear became too much to manage. He finished the race 17th, the best result RWR has earned at Bristol to date.

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

● Boston native Kaz Grala makes his first Richmond start Sunday the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse for RWR. Grala finished 19th at Bristol in the first short-track race of the season.

● In five Xfinity Series starts at Richmond, Grala has three top-10 finishes. His best was a fourth-place result earned in April 2023, the first of his nine top-10 finishes earned last season.

● Grala also owns one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start at Richmond, and he competed in two ARCA Menards Series East races at the .75-mile oval with a best finish of eighth in 2015.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● NHRA Top Fuel driver Clay Millican competed at the Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California, last weekend with the Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing Series. The Parts Plus driver topped Antron Brown in the first round of eliminations to advance to the quarterfinals, where he was defeated by Brittany Force.

● In Senoia, Georgia, rain forced a one-day show for Progressive American Flat Track (AFT) drivers Briar Bauman, Kody Kopp and Shayna Texter-Bauman. Kopp took home his second win of the year in the AFT Singles feature by a margin of 1.522 seconds. It was his third podium finish in three races so far this year. In the Mission SuperTwins feature, Bauman missed out on the podium by .160 of a second, finishing fourth to match his best result of the season so far.

● 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

Final result aside, the No. 51 team had a great run in the last short-track race at Bristol. Now that you’ve had time to think it through, what are your thoughts on how that weekend went and how that plays into what we may see this weekend at Richmond?

“We just try to do the best we can and every week we unload and we’re not really sure where we’re going to be once we get on track. I feel like we’ve shown a lot of speed at the short tracks. At the Clash, we were really fast, and then at Bristol we were quick, too. This is just a growing year. It’s taking time but the scenario at Bristol kind of played into our hands a little bit and our cars were just quick. I saw people saying that we were just running to the front and waiting for the tires give up, but I was conserving all day. That’s a situation where the car was good and it was on me to manage that and try to keep us up there. We’ll see more conserving at Richmond, it’ll just be a matter of how much. We’ll be racing at night rather than during the day, like we have been, and that could mean a big difference in what we see with the car. We’ll have to take that into consideration during practice and come up with a good plan for the race.”

It seems as though everyone is seeing a completely different Rick Ware Racing as compared to years past. Does that feel accurate with what you are seeing inside the shop?

“Absolutely, and trying to change that narrative has been one of the biggest things we face. We have completely different intentions than the RWR of the past and we’re just trying each week to do the best that we can with what we have. RFK has been a big, big help to that. Ford has been a big help to that. We’re on the simulator every week, we get the same time the bigger Cup teams get, and we’re all working hard. It felt good to show that at Bristol. I guarantee we’re working just as hard or harder than anyone else out here just because of how small our team is. Our people have to work triple as hard as a big organization would. So it’s been a lot of long nights, but it’s awesome to see that effort that all the men and women in the shop are putting in come to fruition.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

The RWR cars have been strong on short tracks so far this year, but what are some of the challenges you could face at Richmond?

“Our cars have been really fast on the short tracks and I think we’ll see the same this weekend. The surface at Richmond is really abrasive and a lot of times you’ll see guys that are really quick on the short run but kind of fade later in the race. We’ve already had a race where we had to manage tires and get the most out of them late in a run, so I think we’ve got something we can work with. The biggest question will be how that changes under the lights. The last few years, the Cup cars have run during the day and you definitely see more parity when the sun is out.”

Richmond is one of the tracks where you have the most experience, dating back to your time racing Late Models. Does that give you added comfort as you continue to build your relationship with the No. 15 team?

“I’ve really enjoyed racing at Richmond and I do have a lot of track time there. I think there are a few ways that can help. I know the characteristics of the track and what I need to focus on as a driver to make it to the end. One of the great things about Richmond is you really don’t know what kind of race you’ll get. We could have long, green-flag runs or we could end up with a race where we see a lot of cautions and frustration. It’ll be important for me to manage my patience as the race goes on and just let Bill (Plourde, crew chief) and the guys give me what I need in the car.”