By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Kaz Grala is not your typical high school freshman. In his “free” time, the Worcester Academy honor roll student can be found speeding through the ranks of the auto racing world. Grala recently signed with Turner Scott Motorsports, racing a fullsize Chevrolet?stock car weighing in at around 3,200 pounds with a 650-plus horsepower engine.
Grala, who was voted 2013?JEGS/Speed51.com Rookie of the Year, kicked off 2014 by becoming the youngest-ever driver in International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) series history, competing in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge BMW Performance 200 at Daytona International Speedway. Grala finished in second place, having set the fastest lap of the race.
In February, he earned back-to-back top ten finishes in his first two career starts in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's (NASCAR) K&N Pro Series East – the top step in NASCAR's developmental series before drivers make the jump to the three national series.
On March 15, Grala raced?at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee immediately following the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race. Out of a field of 36 cars, he finished 20th after battling back from two flat tires and a loose wheel. The race marked his first career start in the No. 31 OzLINK Chevrolet Camaro.
At just 15 years old, Grala is the youngest driver in the field. While he is not considered “street legal” to drive in Massachusetts, he has credentials from various auto racing?sanctioning bodies, including NASCAR and IMSA.
“No matter how close or difficult a race might?be, Kaz?always seems to have mental capacity in reserve to
consider track conditions, car handling,?and race strategy??”and?he's able to?do it?all?with a sense of calm.?That's?very?difficult at any age, but at 15,?it's quite?remarkable,” said Shari Graham, public relations, Oz Development/OzLINK Racing.
The son of a race car driver, Grala said that he has racing in his blood. It is a sport, he added, that is far more than driving fast.
“I think a lot of people don’t quite?understand the physical demands of the sport,” he said.?”With a top speed of over 150 mph, the G-forces make it feel like you are laying on your side in a sauna,?with a 20-pound weight pressing the side of your head and five-pound weights held straight out in each hand,?for the duration of a two-hour race.”
Between traveling, racing and schoolwork, there is not much time for anything else – but Grala is not complaining.
“I love everything about racing; it's simply my passion,” he said. “I love the strategy involved, the split-second decisions?and the adrenaline rush of it.”
If his track record to date is any indication, Grala has a bright future in racing ahead of him.
“Based upon the fact that Kaz is already competing in NASCAR's top development series at the age of 15,?we feel that his future racing career looks very promising,?with the ultimate goal of competing in?the NASCAR Sprint Cup series,” Graham said.
For more on Kaz Grala, visit http://communityadvocate.com/2012/01/06/focus-determination-drives-young-westborough-racecar-enthusiast.