NASCAR truck driver Kaz Grala met with high school students on Thursday morning in Westlake. Video by Drew Davison. ddavison@star-telegram.com
NASCAR truck driver Kaz Grala met with high school students on Thursday morning in Westlake. Video by Drew Davison. ddavison@star-telegram.com

Texas Motor Speedway

Georgia Tech-bound teenage driver looking for NASCAR truck win in Texas debut

June 08, 2017 05:32 PM

UPDATED June 08, 2017 11:09 PM

WESTLAKE

Kaz Grala doesn’t mind having a three-letter first name. His parents named him after his Polish grandfather, Kazimierz, who went by the nickname “Kaz.”

“They took it from nine letters to three, which I certainly appreciate,” Grala said, smiling. “It fits better over the door of a stock car.”

Yes, it does.

Another three-letter word Grala likes? Win.

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Grala, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for GMS Racing, accomplished that for the first time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway in February. He’s gone on to post two other top-10 runs, including a second-place finish last weekend at Dover.

He’ll look to build on that momentum in Friday’s winstaronlinegaming.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. Grala certainly surrounded himself with people who have a history of winning at TMS on Thursday morning.

Grala, an 18-year-old who graduated high school less than a week ago, met with Trophy Club Nelson High School students who are part of the school’s “Solar Car Race Team” that has won four straight national championships.

The students are working out of a hangar in Westlake on their next car that will compete in the “Solar Car Challenge” next month at TMS. The school won the challenge at TMS in 2015.

“It’s awesome. I’m a high school kid as well,” Grala said. “This is right up my alley. I love being out here and seeing what they’ve done is pretty impressive. It sounds like it’s quite the competition they put on at Texas Motor Speedway.”

Even though solar cars and NASCAR trucks don’t have many similarities, Grala said the concepts for each are the same, such as figuring out the ideal weight and maximizing power.

For the Nelson students, it’s a perk to see someone their age such as Grala doing it on a professional level.

“Great experience for them,” said Jeff Taylor, a Nelson teacher who oversees the team. “They’re able to get first-hand knowledge from him and they’re able to relate to him because they’re the same age.”

Grala is just a little bit different from them with his racing schedule. He’s committed to trying to make a career out of it, although he is planning to study mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech next fall.

Grala doesn’t know how he’ll juggle classes and racing quite yet, but feels it’ll be a win-win situation going forward.

“I’m hoping to make a career in NASCAR and giving that my all, so I’ll definitely still be racing next year if I can find myself a ride,” Grala said. “But I think an engineering degree is going to help tremendously. As a driver, we’re basically the data system. The engineer and crew chief are relying on nothing but what I’m saying. The better I understand the car, the better I understand the engineering behind it, the better feedback I can give them.

“It’s also a good fallback for me. A lot of people don’t make it as drivers. I’d love to be involved in motorsports in some capacity and this gives me the option to potentially be an engineer or crew chief on a team some day if I’m not a driver.”

But driving remains Grala’s first love, and he’s focused on making a strong debut at Texas. He got on the track for the first time in his career during practice Thursday afternoon, but feels inexperience won’t be an issue, what with every driver learning TMS’ new surface after it was repaved and reprofiled before the season.

“I watched the Xfinity race a couple months ago and it’s kind of a treacherous track,” Grala said. “That should mean it’ll be good for a lot of excitement for fans, but maybe a little bit of stress for us drivers.

“But it looks like Texas did an unbelievable job with their repave, and I look forward to trying it out.”

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison