RICHMOND, Va. — Kaz Grala and the No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing (SHR) team rolled into Richmond Raceway seeking a momentum building performance following a slow start to the NASCAR Xfinity Series season. They got that and then some with a fourth-place finish in the ToyotaCare 250 at the 0.75-mile short track on Saturday, April 1.
“Honestly, I think we were pretty good on the short run, but in my opinion, we were the best car out here in the long run,” Grala told Frontstretch. “We needed this one so badly. We had some terrible luck to start the season, but we had fast cars all along.”
Grala tied his best career Xfinity Series finish, and it is his first career top five on a short track. It is also SHR’s fourth-ever top five, and its first by a driver not named John Hunter Nemechek. The team’s best Xfinity finish also came at Richmond when Nemechek placed third in 2021.
Grala had to work his way up from a 21st-place starting spot after qualifying was rained out, forcing NASCAR to set the lineup via the rulebook. By the end of stage one, Grala inched his way up to 12th, and he earned four stage points with a sixth-place showing in stage two. He maintained his track position through a series of late cautions and restarts against the Xfinity Series’ best teams to tally SHR’s best finish of the 2023, topping their previous best of 13th at Auto Club Speedway.
For SHR, this finish is particularly special because of the team’s hometown connections to the Richmond area. Established in 2013 under the name DRIVE Technology, SHR’s original race shop was located in Chester, Va., roughly 30 minutes south of Richmond Raceway, before moving to Mooresville, N.C., and going Xfinity Racing in 2019. Team owner Sam Hunt is a graduate of VCU in downtown Richmond.
“Yeah, it’s a big moment,” an excited Hunt told Frontstretch. “I felt like maybe we had the car to beat if it went all green. But we’ve had a lot of rough luck to start the year, and we’ve run well every week. So, it’s good to finally get that monkey off our back and go to work on Monday with a lot of confidence and a little pep in our step. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Grala and SHR now go into the Xfinity Series’ Easter weekend break feeling great about the direction of their season with another Virginia short track in Martinsville Speedway two weeks away.
“This is good to lead into an off weekend,” Grala said. “I don’t have any big plans for Easter weekend, but definitely, definitely going to be thrilled with this run here in Richmond going into next week’s off weekend.”
About the author
Andrew Stoddard joined Frontstretch in May of 2022 as an iRacing contributor. He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Richmond, and VCU. He has a new day job as an athletic communications specialist at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
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