It’s been long rumored, and assumed for the last year, but finally Matt Kaulig makes it official that his team will move up to the Cup level full-time in 2022. With this team being a three-car operation in Xfinity with hungry talent looking for their shot, they have plenty of options for this car. I’m here to make the case for a guy that isn’t one of their three full-time drivers, Kaz Grala.
I love pointing out young drivers that aren’t given development opportunities whether it be due to sponsorship or just due to not enough seats to go around. Guys like Grala who have talent but haven’t been given a fair shot or a decent full-time ride.
Grala finished 6th in Sunday’s race at Talladega which most would call a fluke, but this is actually the second time he’s outperformed expectations in Cup. Last season, Austin Dillon was ruled out of the Daytona Road Course and Kaz Grala was picked to substitute. In his first Cup start, and everyone’s first start on the Daytona Road Course he finished 7th.
This opportunity came after Grala started 5 races for RCR in the Xfinity series last season. He was splitting the RCR-car with Anthony Alfredo and Myatt Snider. Altogether the three of them made 24 starts spread across the season. Here are their stats from them sharing the same car.
Top Fives: 1
Top Tens: 3
Average Finish: 13.2
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 9
Average Finish: 12.6
Top Fives: 2
Top Tens: 3
Average Finish: 14.8
Based on these stats you can make the assumptions that Anthony Alfredo was arguably the better driver of the three. However, his average finish was all but equal to Grala and he received double the amount of starts. Had Grala been given ten opportunities, it’s possible his stats would’ve at least been identical.
The one thing for certain is that he outdrove Myatt Snider who was given the #2-car full-time in 2021. More than likely the ride was offered to Alfredo who turned it down for the opportunity to jump to Cup at Front Row Motorsports, a career move I believe he’ll regret if he does not already.
Snider more than likely got the ride thanks to sponsorship. He has always had help in his career from brands like Louisiana Hot Sauce. This left Grala without a full-time ride heading into the 2021 season.
This race at Talladega was only his third of the year in NASCAR with him racing in the Daytona 500 for Kaulig Racing and then at the Daytona Road Course for Young’s Motorsports in the trucks. In his Daytona 500 start he was caught up in a crash, but he is the only driver out of six to get a top ten for Young’s Motorsports this season; he got that top ten at Daytona Road Course.
While Grala would not be considered a road course specialist, he is very skilled at them. With the Cup schedule leaning heavy towards road courses, it’s a great skill for a young driver to have.
The only opportunity Grala received with adequate equipment was back in 2017 for GMS Racing. That season he visited victory lane at Daytona, and finished 7th in the standings ahead of his teammate Justin Haley. Haley is currently in line for a Cup ride in 2022 at either Spire or Kaulig.
He was not brought back for the 2018 season, and only received a part-time ride for JGL Racing, a small team in Xfinity. That season he was able to get 1 top five, the only driver for JGL that season with a top ten. He also had a much better average finish than any driver he shared his ride with.
This is where we got to RCR, which was a great opportunity that I think he made the most of. Since then he’s been doing spot starts and finishing well with any opportunity he’s been given.
While Justin Haley is more than likely Kaulig’s first choice, they may have to pry him away from Spire who is also looking for a second full-time driver in 2022. If Haley is out, I think that Grala is a young talent deserving of the ride.
A.J. Allmedinger and Jeb Burton will more than likely be in line for promotion over Grala, but it doesn’t make him any less deserving. Whichever of the three is promoted to Cup, I will be disappointed and surprised if Grala does not takeover that seat in Xfinity full-time.
At only 22-years old, there is still plenty of time for Kaz Grala to catch on somewhere and I believe he is well deserving of a decent Xfinity or Truck ride, but money needs to come together. Keep your eye on him when he gets things back on track.