Kaz Grala, the exciting rookie driver who just competed in his first Daytona 500 race at the Cup Series level, made headlines in 2017 when, at only 18, he became the youngest winner of a NASCAR event at Daytona, winning the NASCAR Truck race. He capped off that season by then becoming the youngest driver to ever make the NASCAR playoffs.
He made his Cup Series debut on Aug. 16, 2020, in the iconic No. 3 car, after Austin Dillon tested positive for Covid-19. He ended up finishing seventh in the race, signalling a very bright future. The 2021 season is the first year he has a team dedicated to him on the Cup level.
He currently lives in Moorseville, North Carolina. To say he’s going places fast is, er, redundant…
What’s your favorite moment so far in your career?
Last year, I did get to drive a cup race, which is our highest division. It was the first time. The circumstances were unfortunate, another driver ended up testing positive for Covid-19. Luckily the driver was more than okay, he didn’t show any symptoms. With that said, I was able to enjoy the weekend and take it all in because it was a special experience for me. The coolest part about it is that I got to drive the number three car, which is the most famous number in NASCAR history. It was, coincidentally, the number that I used to race with from the age of nine all the way up until I was seventeen years old. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to drive the number three car in the Cup Series.
What is the physical toll of a race and how does it affect your body?
It’s definitely different than most sports. A lot of people think, oh you’re sitting in a car, how physical can that be? But the reality is, especially in the summertime, our cars get up to 140, sometimes as high as 150, degrees inside the cockpit. Our races are from two-and-a-half to four hours long. You don’t get to get out of the car and you don’t get to cool off, so you’re dealing with those conditions the whole time. At the speeds that we travel at, we have significant vertical and lateral loads in the car on our bodies, kind of like a fighter jet. We have multiple g’s sustained for quite a long period of time in the car.
So, not only does that make your arms and legs heavy but we have helmets on so our necks and our cores are heavy as well. You have to be so precise on the pedals and with the wheel and give the car the exact inputs you intend to give it. That requires having a really stable core. I work with a trainer that specializes with drivers and we’re pretty neck and core heavy, balance heavy. And cognitive training as well.
Where is your dream vacation getaway?
I’ve always wanted to stay in one of those little huts right over the ocean.
What city has the best food?
Hands down to me, New Orleans. I wish we raced somewhere near New Orleans, that’s always been my favorite spot for food.
What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
Hawaii. Maui is a place I’d love to go back to.
Your father is from Poland, have you been, or plan to visit?
I have not. When I was younger we always used to say “Oh next year,” and then my racing schedule would grow and grow and grow. Now I’m not sure when I’ll squeeze that in. But I would love to go someday and see where he grew up. He moved here when he was eight but he remembers a lot from it and tells me the stories of the farms. The reason his family moved over here was because his dad dreamed of having a car, and there was no way they could get a car in Poland back then. His dad did end up getting that car, my dad ended up racing cars and now I race cars.
Do you have a favorite track you’ve raced at?
I probably have to go with Daytona just because, what you remember at the end of the day is you either had a good weekend or you had a bad weekend. Your favorite tracks always seem to be fluid with how you do. At Daytona, I don’t know what it is about it, I’ve just had success there. I’ve had wins, I’ve had runs that I surprised myself. It’s treated me so well.
What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?
When I was around eight or nine, I used to play electric guitar. I should say I was learning to play electric guitar. Anyways, I played with this rec group where we played gigs at different restaurants. So my claim to fame back then was that I performed in full makeup for a Kiss cover show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Boston.
How does one get into racing, is it the sort of thing that you are born into?
A lot of drivers have parents or family members who have been in racing before. But that’s not necessarily how you have to start, there are plenty that don’t. But for me, my dad did race, sports cars. The Rolex 24 was a race that he did three times. That is how I got familiar with racing, but it was totally my choice to start. I tried every sport and I liked some of them, but there was nothing quite like racing. Racing was what I enjoyed the most and is definitely what I was the best at, so I stuck with it. Actually, my dad’s car number when he raced was number three. So it really did come full circle for me.
What are some must-see spots or restaurants in Moorseville, NC?
The nickname for it is “Race City USA,” so there’s a lot of race shops there — the first must-do is see some of the race shops. We have Lake Norman right there too so stop by the lake for sure, that’s one of the best things about where we live. For restaurants, the hot spot that everyone goes to is Epic Chophouse. It’s our nicest steakhouse in Moorseville.