Rick Ware Racing: Justin Haley/Kaz Grala Atlanta Race Advance

Rick Ware Racing

Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Grady Health Ford Mustang

● Justin Haley will make his seventh NASCAR Cup Series start Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, in the No. 51 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing (RWR). The 400-mile race marks the debut of new primary partner Grady Health. In six starts at the 1.54-mile superspeedway-style oval, Haley has two top-10 finishes with a best of seventh earned in July 2022.

● For the first time since 2019, the Cup Series will visit Atlanta for round two of the points-paying season. In the four years since, the series followed the season-opening Daytona 500 with the three-race West Coast Swing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. This marks the third season NASCAR will compete on the reconfigured Atlanta layout that turned the 1.5-mile intermediate track into a venue that produced superspeedway-style racing action like that seen at Daytona (Fla.) International Superspeedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

● In addition to his Cup Series resume at Atlanta, Haley has made six starts at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he’s posted top-10 finishes each time. Three of those were top-fives. His best finish on the current Atlanta configuration was fourth in the July 2023 race.

● The native of Winamac, Indiana, competed in his eighth Daytona 500 Monday after it was postponed Sunday due to rain. Haley started 22nd and made it through the first 60-lap stage without incident. He began the second stage 25th before teaming up with the Ford Performance drivers to form a third line and pushed Joey Logano to the front of the pack. Haley spent 20 laps within the top-three and then stayed in the top-five as the Ford camp began to prepare for green-flag pit stops. Miscommunication during the pit stop left Haley short on fuel and forced him to pit prior to the conclusion of Stage 2, leaving him one lap down to the leaders. He was unable to get back onto the lead lap during the final stage that was nearly caution-free. He finished 26th.

Kaz Grala, Driver of the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang

● Kaz Grala is set to make his first Cup Series start at Atlanta in the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang for RWR. Grala owns three Xfinity Series starts at Atlanta with a best-finish of 14th in July 2023.

● Atlanta marks Grala’s second event with RWR, his first coming at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the season-opening non-points Busch Light Clash. The 25-year-old driver just missed out on advancing to the Clash feature following an adjustment to the qualifying format due to inclement weather.

● Grala competed in Monday’s Daytona 500 with Front Row Motorsports, racing his way into the event in his Blue Green Vacations Duel qualifying race Thursday. The Boston native started Monday’s race 26th, but he was caught up in a multicar accident on lap five that ended his bid. He was credited with a 38th-place finish.

● N29 Capital Partners returns for its second race with Grala’s No. 15 team. N29 Capital Partners financially supports early stage startup companies that have created products or services that are disruptive in their industry.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● The 2024 drag racing season unofficially kicked off two weeks ago in Bradenton, Florida, during the PRO Superstar Shootout, where RWR’s Clay Millican promptly set fast time in the first round of qualifying with an elapsed time of 3.688 seconds and a speed of 336.49 mph, and then remained atop the leaderboard by securing the No. 1 qualifying position. Millican advanced all the way to the final round of eliminations, a stout performance that highlighted an expanded role this season by longtime partner Parts Plus on the No. 51 Top Fuel Dragster, and the addition of NHRA veteran Nicky Boninfante as co-crew chief.

● In the first racing event of the 2024 season, Cody Ware scored a podium finish Jan. 20 on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile Daytona road course driving a Ligier JS P320 in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge LMP3 class. The following weekend, Ware and teammate Preston Pardus competed in the twin Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup races at Daytona.

●  Rick Ware has been a motorsports mainstay for more than 40 years. It began at age 6 when the third-generation racer began his driving career and has since spanned four wheels and two wheels on both asphalt and dirt. Competing in the SCCA Trans Am Series and other road-racing divisions led Ware to NASCAR in the early 1980s, where he finished third in his NASCAR debut – the 1983 Warner W. Hodgdon 300 NASCAR Grand American race at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. More than a decade later, injuries would force Ware out of the driver seat and into fulltime team ownership. In 1995, Rick Ware Racing was formed, and with wife Lisa by his side, Ware has since built his eponymous organization into an entity that fields two fulltime entries in the NASCAR Cup Series while simultaneously campaigning successful teams in the Top Fuel class of the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, the NTT INDYCAR Series, Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX).

● In 2023, RWR enjoyed three NHRA Top Fuel wins with Millican, two Progressive American Flat Track wins with rider Briar Bauman, and multiple WSX victories with riders Shane McElrath and Joey Savatgy coming off their 2022 WSX championship.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

Atlanta has moved up to the second points race of the season. Is it a bit easier to carry the momentum from Daytona without the West Coast break you’ve typically had in between?

“It can be. The newer Atlanta has more of the superspeedway-type racing now. You still get some pack racing but the runs build a lot faster on the shorter mile-and-a-half track, so it’s a little bit easier but just as risky to try to make a move. We’re already in that headspace and focused on that style of racing, so to go from a superspeedway to a track that races the same is super helpful and makes it a lot easier to stay in that place. We saw at Daytona that we have the speed we need to be up front, so if we can clean up some of the pit road stuff, we can definitely be competitive and carry over what we started there.”

The No. 51 team has been off to an impressive start. A strong run at the Clash in qualifying and the race, and the same just a few days ago in the Daytona 500. There are always some highs and lows when building a team. How are you feeling about the progress made so far?

“I feel like we’re doing a good job. We are definitely showing that changes are happening, improvements are being made. After the Clash, I felt like a lot of guys that have been with RWR for a while saw that we could do this and be competitive and run well. Then we went to Daytona and were running up front. A mistake on pit road was a little bit of a step back that took away from that, but we still did it. We were still showing that we are capable. It’s a good feeling.”

You were excited to work with the Fords on the superspeedways and I think we all saw why. How will that help moving forward?

“Atlanta has a similar style of racing to it, where maybe that teamwork isn’t as crucial, but it can certainly help your effort at the end of the day. Everyone at Ford has been super welcoming. I feel like I have been on the Ford simulator more this year than I had been the previous two years, which is big for me. Everyone has just been so nice and that is refreshing. I am super excited to continue working with them I honestly can’t say enough. It is a scary transition to go to a different manufacturer and a different team, but I don’t know anything that could have been done differently to make me feel more welcome.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

You got a chance to compete in the new Ford Mustang at Daytona. Did that give you enough experience to know what to expect at Atlanta?

“I feel like it did between the Duel on Thursday and the little bit of the race we got to run on Monday. The feel of the car is important and knowing what to expect, but I did get a chance to work with the Fords and I feel really good about that partnership. We’ve seen the Fords qualifying really well at Atlanta, so hopefully we’ll have a good run and be able to stay ahead of anything that may happen early on.”

This will be your second race with RWR this year. How did things go at the Clash, and how is the team adapting to a new driver and new expectations?

“I’m excited to get back into the No. 15 this weekend. We learned a lot in L.A., and I think we’ve learned a lot since then. I feel like there’s a lot of great potential there. The people at Rick Ware Racing and the new tools, the new processes, definitely have the potential to run well. It’s all so new that I don’t know that we’ll be able to plug it in and just go run up front in the first 10 races. That may be ambitious, but I think over the course of the year, and certainly over the course of the next few years, where the team is going and what their plans are, I think absolutely will work. I’m excited to be a part of that so far and definitely look forward to what that could look like later this year when things really start clicking and firing on all cylinders. I think we can do a lot.”


Spread the love