What were you doing at age 15? You probably didn’t have as much on your plate as the Westborough, Mass native, Kaz Grala. Kaz Grala is only 15 years old and he is already starting a NASCAR career! Grala, who is going into his sophomore year in high school, has been behind the wheel of race cars since age 4. Today he is a rookie in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driving for Turner Scott Motorsports in the #31 OzLINK Chevrolet. With just two races to go in the East series season, Kaz has earned three top-fives and nine top tens. He has an impressive top ten average finish and remember he is just 15 years old!
“I started karting at 4 years old and when I started Bandoleros at age 10,” said Grala. “My dad used to race sports cars in the Rolex (Sports Car) Series so he got me into go karting the same time as the regular sports like little league and soccer.”
He went on to win two karting championships in his Northeast area before moving on to North Carolina to find tougher competition. “I started to take notice of NASCAR. It didn't take me long to realize that's where I want to be.”
Last year was a big year for Kaz. He won in is second ever start in the Late Model Stock Car Series and he won the Bango Matthews Memorial 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway. This early success caught the eye of Turner Scott driver/crew chief Cale Gale.
“Cale Gale was working for TSM in the UARA Series last year so he saw me race on a weekly basis,” says Grala. “He talked to Mike Greci, the team manager, about me and it was too good an opportunity to refuse!”
Cody Shoppe - Who a driver you have looked up to early in your career?
Kaz Grala - Jimmie Johnson is someone that I feel I can learn things from in every aspect of racing. From driving style, to race craft, to the championship-mindset, to marketability. He does it all perfectly and professionally.
CS - Who has been the biggest help to you giving you driver advice?
KG - I've met David Ragan and actually I've been teammates with him in Late Models. He's given me both on-track and off-track advice numerous times which I really appreciate. I've also gotten a chance to meet Justin Allgaier who was very nice and helpful to me as well.
CS - What were your goals entering the year and how would you rate your rookie season in NASCAR so far?
KG - My goal was just to score some solid finishes and hopefully be there in points at the end, which we are. My rookie season has been great so far and experience is really what we were looking for, which we've gotten.
CS - So not much pressure?
KG - No not at all. Very laid back.
CS - Do you put any more pressure on yourself when you see Ben Rhodes with the year he has had and now Scott Heckert with back to back wins? Does it make it any harder to focus on strictly your growth/progression at all?
KG - Not really because each week we show up and work strictly on our program with tunnel vision so if anything it's just motivation.
CS - So with such a busy schedule as a race car driver, what do you do for school?
KG - I go to a private school in Massachusetts.
CS - How does it work during the race season? Do you just skip Fridays?
KG - Yes exactly and I make up with work. I keep straight As and sometimes Bs.
CS - Awesome! I couldn’t do that even though I went everyday! (laughter)
KG - Hahaha!
CS - Do you have any obligations during the week with the team like meetings at the shop or something that might conflict with school?
KG - They're very understanding about the importance of school so they accommodate me as far as scheduling around school. Since we only have two races left, the last of which is at the end of September so the season doesn't overlap much.
CS - One thing I just have to ask. Kaz is quite an unique name. I have never heard it before and I think it’s cool. Where did it come from?
KG - It was my Polish grandfather's name. Haha yeah actually I've never had a problem with my name luckily.
Kaz Grala sits sixth in K&N Pro Series East points with two races to go. With a legitimate shot at the top five, it has been a great first season for the fifteen year old. He and his sponsor OzLINK, which is a software integration company that makes two types of software work together automatically, are sure to have a long career together moving up through the ranks in NASCAR.
*Author’s Note* - I would like to personally thank Kaz Grala for taking the time to do this interview with me. Wishing Kaz the best of luck in the final two races of the year and the many years to come. Hoping to interview him again in a few years a Sprint Cup Series contender! #HollaForGrala