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

NKP #15: Kaz Grala, Rick Ware Racing, N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang

● Justin Haley, driver of the No. 51 Ohanafy Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Rick Ware Racing (RWR), will make his seventh NASCAR Cup Series start at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in the eighth race of the 2024 season. The paperclip-shaped, .526-mile track located in Ridgeway, Virginia, has played host to the Cup Series since the series’ inception in 1949.

● The 24-year-old driver has struggled at Martinsville in the Cup Series and has a best finish of 27th earned in October 2022. Haley has three NASCAR Xfinity Starts at Martinsville with a best finish of eighth in April 2021.

● Haley also owns six NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at Martinsville, his first coming in 2015 at just 16 years of age. He finished both 2018 races in the top-10 with a best finish of sixth in the October race.

● Ohanafy – a management platform for beverage and beyond – returns to the No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse this weekend. Ohanafy is redefining the beverage industry by harnessing the power of Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM. The mission is clear: to empower beverage producers and distributors to reclaim their time and focus on crafting exceptional beverages while streamlining production and distribution operations. Built on innovation, excellence, and quality, Ohanafy offers a robust, cloud-based solution that revolutionizes how beverage companies operate. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, it enables data-driven decision-making, leading to optimized processes, increased profitability, and reduced costs.

● Kaz Grala, driver of the No. 15 N29 Capital Partners Ford Mustang Dark Horse for RWR, will make his first Cup Series start at Martinsville in Sunday’s Cook Out 400. The Boston native has two Xfinity Series starts at the Virginia short track with a best finish of 15th earned in April 2023.

● In four Truck Series starts at Martinsville, Grala’s best result was a seventh-place finish in October 2017 for GMS Racing.

● Grala currently sits 33rd in the driver standings with two top-20 finishes in seven races so far this season. His best finish was a 14th-place result earned at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the second race of the year.

● RWR Top Fuel driver Clay Millican heads to Phoenix Friday through Sunday for the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series Arizona Nationals. Two weekends ago at the Winternationals in Pomona, California, Millican was seeded ninth after qualifying, his best effort so far this year, and he advanced to the quarterfinals, where he was defeated by Brittany Force.

●  Rick Ware has been a motorsports mainstay for more than 40 years. It began at age six 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 LMP3 class of the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX), where RWR won the 2022 SX2 championship with rider Shane McElrath.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

This is the third short track of the year, not counting the non-points Clash at the Coliseum. What’s your outlook for Martinsville with some short-track experience under your belt with RWR?

“We obviously had a good run at Bristol, even though you wouldn’t know it looking back on the results. Then at Richmond, we really struggled to find good balance. I’m not sure what to expect at Martinsville since these tracks are all so different. I think there are a couple of things we’ve learned that we can look at, but we’ll definitely be looking to our friends at RFK for some input on what we can do to try to put ourselves up front.”

All of these tracks are very different, but is there anything that can be applied as you move to each one?

“I think the track that we’ve raced on for the Clash the last few years is probably the closest thing we’ve had to Martinsville. The longer straightaways and tight corners are more similar, but the turns at Martinsville are unlike any other place we go. That’s where you see most of the action and I think that’s what makes Martinsville so special. You can pick up a lot of speed on the front or backstretch but, if you miss the corner, it can really mess up your race. But like at most short tracks, track position is important and Martinsville is very tough when it comes to trying to recover.”

The No. 51 team was very impressive at the Clash and it’s still early in the season. Is there any reason we couldn’t see that again with maybe a little improvement?

“Yeah, we were pretty good right out the box at the Clash. I’d like to think it’ll be similar, but you just never know. That was a long time ago and a lot has changed since then. We just need a good, clean race, keep building up our notebook and do the best we can.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

Do you feel like you’re still working through the process of learning the Cup Series car and how it differs from the Xfinity car?

“I feel like I’ve gotten pretty comfortable in the Cup car so far, but it’s a constant evolution. The way you make speed in this car and set up a pass is different from an Xfinity car, but now that I’ve raced each type of track this year, I know what to expect. The biggest challenge in Cup is the experience level of the entire field, so the learning process is never going to be finished. I’ll continue to refine my approach throughout the year and with that will come the ability to truly maximize the result each weekend.”

One of the biggest things you face on short tracks is tire management and Martinsville’s concrete surface creates a lot of physical demand on the tires, as well as stress on brakes. Do you like when a race is more in the driver’s hands and dependent on managing tires and braking? 

“I’ve always thought that tire management is one of my greatest strengths as a driver since all the way back in my Late Model days. I absolutely love races that require a little bit of conservation, which is getting more and more rare nowadays, so I’m always excited when I get the chance to do that at this level. It puts more control in the driver’s hands, creates more passing opportunities, and allows for some different pit strategies during the race. The emphasis ends up on execution at the track instead of primarily the teams’ R&D and aero departments.”


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