CONCORD, N.C. — Darius Grala did what any proud father would do after seeing his son do something “amazing” and “absolutely ridiculous.”
With a large grin plastered across his face, he stood on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s pit road and captured the image of Kaz Grala helping push his No. 61 Ford toward the garage.
In his first Xfinity race for Fury Race Cars, the race car building company his father formed in 2016 and that was making its first NASCAR start, Kaz Grala placed 10th.
“That 10th feels like a win to us. No joke,” Darius Grala told NBC Sports. “It’s not like we didn’t dream of having a top 10 when we loaded up to head to the race track. But I got to tell you, that was a tall order and to deliver on it is nothing short of a dream.”
The dream started with a text message from Darius Grala to crew chief Shane Wilson on May 9, formally beginning the process of putting the No. 61 team together after Kaz Grala learned he would be without his ride at JGL Racing after 10 starts.
Seventeen days later, the 19-year-old rookie earned his best result since placing fourth in the season opener at Daytona. It’s his second top 10 through 11 races.
The team, which includes most of the crew who worked on Kaz Grala’s No. 24 car at JGL Racing through the first 10 races, showed up at Charlotte on Thursday without a backup car.
Without any owner points to guarantee a starting spot, Kaz Grala was cautious in practice and Saturday’s qualifying session, which was threatened by rain. But the track was dry when the time came to qualify and the the No. 61 wound up 16th on the board.
Caution was forgotten with the green flag.
“I was aggressive as much as I could be,” Kaz Grala told media at his car afterward. “Really going for it cause I knew these guys deserved a good run. I didn’t want to be the reason they didn’t get it. I was driving my guts out out there. I think I asked for six different water bottles during that race. I was literally leaving nothing on the table. That’s the way you gotta race in the Xfinity Series. Everybody’s too freaking good to not go all out every single lap. I’m really proud of everybody. I can’t thank everyone enough. This is a dream come true.”
He was 11th when a one hour rain delay occurred with 28 laps to go.
On the restart, he lost a few spots before positioning himself for a top 10 in overtime.
“Each additional lap was an additional opportunity to pick up another position,” Darius Grala said. “On that last (run) though, we gained a couple and lost a couple and pretty much ended up where we were. But that’s OK. Top 10 is literally the best we could have possibly hoped for.”
Now the Xfinity team that didn’t exist nearly three weeks ago gets another chance to overachieve. The series heads to Pocono Raceway for a race that will see the restrictor plate package that was used last year at Indianapolis.
“I don’t know how to feel,” Kaz Grala told NBC Sports. “Pocono was one of my favorite race tracks last year. I love it. But we’ve got this weird aero package next week, which I’ve never driven with. My crew chief and most of my crew only has experience with it once, Indy last year. I don’t think they know much of what to expect and I know I definitely don’t. No expectations for us, we’re going to be learning every lap in practice. Hopefully we can have a run to follow this one up. This one’s going to be tough to follow. That’s a good problem to have.”