In the final laps of Thursday night's first Duel race, Kaz Grala and his race team found themselves on the ropes. Grala had lost the draft to go one lap down, then compounded his issues with a pit road speeding penalty, causing him to be a full two laps down as time wound down in his qualifying race. J.J. Yeley, the driver he was competing with for a spot in the Daytona 500 field, ran a lap ahead and seemed all but assured of making the field over Grala.
But after spending many laps without the benefit of drafting help, Grala was able to latch onto a group of lead lap cars in the final laps. And entering Turn One on the last lap, as Yeley went a second lap down, Grala -- who was then on the same lap as Yeley -- was able to motor by and earn a spot in the Great American Race.
"It went from puke to puke: Puking nervous to puking excited at the end," Grala later remarked. "... When we were catching him I could see with like two laps to go, I was like, 'I think we are going to get there, I really think we're going to get there.' I couldn't even believe it, but it worked out."
Grala's last lap pass, despite great adversity, was the sort of knockout punch on-brand for The Money Team Racing, a brand new Cup Series team owned by boxing great Floyd Mayweather. With his car now in the Daytona 500 -- in part thanks to a pep talk that he had given Grala before Thursday night's Duel -- Mayweather is expected to make his way to Daytona Beach for Sunday's race, his first as a NASCAR team owner.
"He was with us on the grid via FaceTime before the Duel. He was so pumped up about it. He was ready, jacked up and really confident in us. That was a cool pep talk to get, not one that I've ever gotten before," Grala said of Mayweather. "Definitely a cool moment for us and having that validation that he's excited about this program, and I can promise you coming out here to a sold-out crowd on Sunday, I don't think anybody could be on this property and not feel that energy and be excited.
"He's really going to get obsessed with this just like we all are."
After Grala makes his second Daytona 500 start on Sunday, The Money Team Racing will likely take a step back and compete sporadically as they build their program. Grala stated that the team's schedule would likely be comprised of races that sponsors want or races where the team feels they can compete -- particularly road courses, where Grala has proven proficient in his young racing career.
"I feel like road courses are very possibly our best chance simply because there's fewer of them," Grala said. "We'll be less behind the 8-ball with the other teams that are running full time. For us to go to a mile-and-a-half race, we'll probably be many races behind in data of the other teams. We've got our eye on trying to do the road courses.:
Sunday will mark Grala's fifth career Cup Series start, and he already has two Top 10 finishes with a best result of sixth at Talladega last April. In addition to his Cup duties for TMT Racing, Grala will also run part-time in the Camping World Truck Series for Young's Motorsports in 2022.