By Matt Weaver — There is no such thing as a perfect prospect in stock car racing. NASCAR is a sport in which the game drivers play in their youth looks very little like the one conducted on Sunday by the professionals of the Sprint Cup Series.
Young drivers are continually tasked with refining and redefining their approach and image as they advance through the ladder system. Some rise to the challenge and become stars while others flounder into obscurity.
That is the daunting challenge that now lies before 15-year-old Pro Series East prospect @KazGrala — to establish himself into a potential superstar under the NASCAR spotlight over the next several years.
Grala — the youngest driver in the series — is a force of pure raw talent, one that has displayed both signs of inexperience and untapped great potential during his brief foray into the K&N Series this season. Grala advanced from Legends and Late Models but has quickly adapted to his No. 31 Pro Series East entry for Turner Scott Motorsports this season, posting seven top-10s in 12 starts and counting.
He says his biggest challenge has been adapting to the increased competition more than his machines thus far.
“The transition between each type of car has been somewhat difficult,” Grala told Popular Speed. “But it is the increased competition level that has really made each step a challenge. It’s about learning how to be a better racer against the competition. That is what’s needed to better your own results.
“With each step up, it forces me to raise my own game.”
Grala went through a rough patch in the summer months, posting four finishes of 14th or worse in six events at Bristol, Richmond, Iowa and Pensacola. But a turnaround eventually followed as the Boston-native overcame and posted four consecutive top-10s at Hampton, Loudon, Columbus and Iowa.
He partially attributed the success to his increased confidence but also the drastic swing of luck that typically comes with short track racing.
“I’ve gotten much better as I’ve gained experience and just learned in the series,” Grala said. “We had a streak of bad luck earlier in the season but it seems to have turned around. The lack of bad luck and increased experience has led to improved results.”
Grala also recognizes that he has much to learn both on and off the track before he can graduate to the Truck Series and beyond. To the fact, he says that he and his father, Darius, often discuss managing the so-called “little things” in racing that require consideration, planning and strategy when not on the track.
“Social media, interviews and just walking around the garage — it’s all important to your future and just your speed and results,” Grala said. “I’m constantly working on improving my marketability as well as my driving and racing.”
Again, there’s no such thing as a perfect prospect but Grala understands all the nuances of working his way to the top. It is those facts in addition to his increasing pace and speed that is establishing Grala as one of the more fascinating prospects to watch in the coming seasons.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East next competes at the Watkins Glen International road course in the Bully Hill 125. Green flag is scheduled for Friday evening and will be televised on tape-delay by Fox Sports 1.