The racing dreams of Kaz Grala and Fury Race Cars’ fledgling Xfinity Series operation will continue for at least one more race this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, NBC Sports has learned.
The young team was scrambling to find sponsorship after its sponsorship deal with NETTTS ran out following the June 17 race at Iowa Speedway.
Team co-owner Darius Grala confirmed the No. 61 Ford has secured sponsorship for Saturday’s race with ITCoalition.com, a company that delivers “information technology and business services and solutions to civilian, intelligence, and defense customers.”
The car also will be sponsored by Kiklos Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has been a sponsor of Kaz Grala since his time in the K&N Pro Series East and the Camping World Truck Series. It sponsored Grala when he won the 2017 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
“It gives us some life,” Darius Grala said, adding the “point of no return” for the team had been Friday, but they confirmed the deal over the weekend.
Fury was only guaranteed sponsorship for four races with NETTTS, which sponsored Grala on the No. 24 at JGL.
In their first four races, Grala never finished lower than 16th. The team placed 10th at Charlotte and last weekend at Iowa.
Three weeks ago at Michigan, Kaz Grala led five laps, mainly under caution, after he passed Elliott Sadler for the lead on Lap 67. He also earned points in both stages for the first time this season.
He enters Chicagoland 16th in points.
Founded in 2016, Fury mainly builds cars for competition in ARCA, CARS Tour, Pro All-Star Series, SRL Southwest Tour and the Southern Super Series.
Five of Grala’s team members with JGL, including crew chief Shane Wilson, came to Fury to work on the No. 61. The team has also received three Roush Fenway Racing-built cars from JGL Racing in addition to continued chassis support from Roush and engine support from Roush Yates Engines.
“Roush has been a pleasure to work with and critical to our early success,” Darius Grala said. “Their chassis and engines are fantastic.”
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.”
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.”
Kaz Grala, father reveal how Fury Race Cars came to Xfinity Series
The receiver was Shane Wilson, the long-time Xfinity crew chief who had worked in that role for Grala through the first 10 races of the season.
The elder Grala asked: “Can u talk?”
That was the moment when Fury Race Cars, the race car building company Grala founded in 2016 with Tony Eury Jr. and Jeff Fultz, started becoming an Xfinity Series team.
PUTTING THE TEAM TOGETHER
It wasn’t official until Kaz Grala, 19, drove onto the track Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in his No. 61 Ford.
It capped a 15-day scramble for the Gralas, Wilson and other members of Fury Race Cars to become the newest Xfinity team. The effort was announced May 18.
It started with Darius Grala’s text. He had just gotten off the phone with JGL Racing owner James Whitener, who had offered to give them three of their Roush Fenway Racing built cars as a form of severance for Kaz Grala.
“I found out kind of before the Dover race that things were looking a little bit shakey, unfortunately,” Grala said. “(Whitener) has some medical issues unfortunately. He didn’t really want to spend the money to continue running, which is understandable.”
JGL Racing originally stated the 24 team was shuttered due to lack of sponsorship.
“It was not a decision to stop the No. 24 team with everyone just finding out after Dover – that was not the case at all,” Whitener said. “It had been discussed among the team really since Las Vegas. I really wish Kaz the best and hope I was instrumental in helping him start his Xfinity career.”
Whitener said he made the decision to give Grala the three cars “to give him the opportunity to keep running and building on his career.”
Said Kaz Grala: “He was a huge supporter of me, right up until the end, emotionally and financially, you name it. He was a big fan of mine and he helped me kick off my Xfinity career. He wasn’t able to continue funding my ride. He definitely wanted to help however he could.”
The three cars from JGL Racing allowed Fury to get a “good jump” on the team building process in the midst of a two-week break for the series.
The process was made even easier with five of the six crew members who worked on Grala’s No. 24 car joining the team along with Wilson. They joined an operation in Fury that for the last two years was devoted to building modifieds, sports cars and late models.
Darius Grala, a native of Poland who moved to the United States when he was 8, had his own background as a sports car driver. That went along with the extensive time served as NASCAR crew chiefs by Eury and Ricky Viers.
But at Fury Race Cars, they’d never worked with a Xfinity car until this month.
“I don’t want you to think we took it lightly,” Darius Grala said. “Because we didn’t we didn’t want to come and embarrass ourselves. But there wasn’t any question right from the first conversation, obviously being Kaz’s dad I want to do everything I can but after speaking with Tony and Jeff, they were all in 100 percent, whatever we need to do, let’s figure it out.”
The group worked many late nights to get ready for Saturday’s race.
“Yes, you have to get the car built, but you’ve got to have the tool box to organize …. you need to have a pit box,” Kaz Grala said. “You need to have the hauler organized, I needed race suits in eight days, I needed polos. Just every single little thing and one of our biggest challenges, just logistically, was that this came together so late, just trying to get our entry forms in in time for this race and for Pocono. Everything came so quickly, all the little I’s had to be dotted and T’s had to be crossed. All that stuff takes time and we just didn’t have time.”
Even acquiring a fuel can was a hassle.
“They’re not easy to come by, it’s not like you can go to (a store) and buy one of those,” Darius Grala said.
They also had to pick a number.
“We let the team at Fury pick the number,” Kaz Grala said. “Actually you would be surprised when looking into numbers, I know I was, how few are actually on the market. Most of them are not. It really worked out perfectly, because Fury being modifieds is one of their main things that they build and all the guys at Fury are old-time, old-school guys and of course the 61 being Richie Evans’ was immediately what jumped out at them. That was kind of the inspiration for it. Not to mention my mom is actually from Rome, New York, as well, as Richie Evans was. Seemed like a good fit.”
The team loaded up its lone car for the Charlotte race weekend by 9 p.m. Wednesday, placing it in the team’s logo-free white hauler.
“That was the first relief since the day we started,” Darius Grala said.
He had a “really, really good” night of sleep.
A DEAL WITH GOD
With the sun setting on Fury’s first day as an Xfinity team, Kaz Grala pulled his No. 61 Ford into his garage stall – the very last stall meant for the lowest team in points or a new team without any – at the end of final practice.
On his last run, Grala posted the eighth best speed in the session at 179.784 mph. That placed him ahead of Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Dillon and other drivers from big teams.
Where did they get that speed?
“I don’t know, I guess a lot of hours and a lot of hard work right there, the car’s pretty darn good,” Grala said. “Couldn’t really ask for more than that.”
Has the driver who has competed in a full season of the Camping World Truck Series (and won one race) and 10 Xfinity races ever felt this good after a practice?
“Not in Xfinity, no,” he said. “I think we’re closer than we’ve been. We were within a couple of tenths of the 22 (Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski). If you’re within a couple of tenths of the 22 then you’re pretty darn good.”
In the Xfinity garage, JGL Racing’s No. 28 Ford driven by Dylan Lupton is parked right across from Fury’s stall. Lupton finished the session 24th.
“We’re still on good terms, we’re friends with all of them,” Grala said. “A little friendly competition, we’re a little bit quicker than them. We’re going to try and stay quicker than them. But we’re trying to be quicker than everyone here.”
The team’s next chance to be quicker than everyone else comes Saturday in qualifying. And the No. 61 team needs to qualify. They also need it to not rain. If it rains, they won’t be in the race.
“There’s 43 cars here and we have zero points,” said Darius Grala, noting the field would be set by owner points. “That’s about the only goal we have right now is we need to make a deal with God on the weather.
Qualifying is set to begin at 10:10 a.m. ET. The chance of rain then is 20 percent.
Regardless of the weather, the team will be back next week at Pocono and the two races after that. That fulfills the original sponsor deal Kaz Grala has with NETTTS, which has backed him since 2013 when he raced in modifieds.
The team is prepared to go beyond those four races, but won’t just stop looking for partners.
“As of right now, yes, it’s been a lot of work, but no one at Fury is scared of work,” Darius Grala said. “We’re looking at this being a step forward if at all possible.”
Heck of a way to make our on-track debut with @FuryRaceCars… P8 in final practice! I can’t say enough about everyone’s hard work and dedication over the last 8 days to get this program up and running. BRING ON SATURDAY! https://t.co/JrNiSNikEN
Grala will attempt to make four starts in the No. 61 Ford beginning next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A rookie in the Xfinity Series, the 19-year-old driver started the first 10 races of the season in JGL Racing’s No. 24 Ford. The team is being shut down due to a lack of sponsorship.
Grala finished fourth in the season opener at Daytona. His best finish since was 12th at ISM Raceway.
He is 19th in points.
Founded in 2016 by Darius Grala, Tony Eury Jr. and Jeff Fultz, Fury Race Cars builds race cars for competition in NASCAR, ARCA, CARS Tour, Pro All-Star Series, SRL Southwest Tour and the Southern Super Series.
In two years, cars built by them have won the Snowball Derby, Redbud 300, CRA SpeedFest, Rattler 250, and swept first, second and third place at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.
Grala will be joined by many crew members from the No. 24 team, including crew chief Shane Wilson.
“I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” Grala said in a press release. “I had a great relationship with Shane … and the rest of our crew, and I believe that we only scratched the surface of that potential in the limited time we had together. I am amazed with all the outreach I’ve received and the help that everyone has been willing to lend, and that is really what has made this all possible. I began the 2018 season with the intent of running full time, and we hope to find the sponsorship to still make that a reality. That would be a dream come true.”