Kaulig Racing has long expressed an interest in racing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, and Kaz Grala will help set those plans in motion. On Wednesday, the team announced that Grala will drive the #16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in the season-opening Daytona 500, with plans to also run other Cup races like the superspeedways and road courses.
Grala is the youngst driver in Daytona International Speedway history to win a NASCAR race at the track when he triumphed in the 2017 Camping World Truck Series season opener at the age of 18. Over the next three years, he would enjoy success at the track with a pair of top-five finishes during the 2018 Xfinity Series. While has has not raced full-time in NASCAR since the 2017 Truck season, Grala has seen strong runs as a part-time Xfinity driver, with three top tens and a fourth at Road America in 2020 as a Richard Childress Racing driver.
In August, Grala made his Cup début on the Daytona road course in RCR’s #3, filling in for Austin Dillon after he tested positive for COVID-19. Despite a lack of practice and last turning laps around the infield track in 2016 as part of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, he scored a seventh-place finish.
“This is a huge opportunity for me both personally and professionally,” Grala stated. “I’ve grown up dreaming of reaching the NASCAR Cup Series, so it will be really special to get more chances to race against my heroes, with Kaulig Racing being the perfect team to take that next step with. I can’t thank (owner) Matt Kaulig and (president) Chris Rice enough for trusting me in their Cup program, as well as RCR for helping shape my career the past couple seasons. I have already worked with many of the Kaulig team members before, so hopefully that will help us hit the ground running next month.”
For the first time in team history, Kaulig will field three full-time cars in the Xfinity Series for 2021. Justin Haley, who débuted the Cup program in the 2020 Daytona 500 with a sixteenth-place finish, returns to the #11 as he comes off a Championship Round appearance. He will be joined by newcomer Jeb Burton in the #10 and former series part-timer A.J. Allmendinger in the #16. All three drivers have Cup experience, with Allmendinger also winning a race at Watkins Glen in 2014.
:”We’re super excited to have Kaz join our team in 2021, and we can’t wait to get started with him at Daytona,” Rice added. “He has had some great success in different series and layouts at Daytona, so we think he will be a great addition to our team beginning with the Daytona 500.”
Last Thursday, the team confirmed they will run the Cup superspeedway and road course races in 2021 ahead of potentially going full time in 2022, the same year that the new Next Gen car is set to be rolled out. The 2021 Cup schedule features eleven such races, including seven road courses like the Daytona road course, though Grala’s specific schedule was not immediately revealed. Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass reported after the announcement that the team had also purchased a shop from RCR that was last used by the now-defunct Germain Racing.