A few hours after earning his first pole in NASCAR, Kaz Grala was in the right place on the final lap to drive through a field of wrecking trucks to win the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
With two laps to go, Johnny Sauter, who won stages 1 and 2, jumped down in front of Grala on the ensuing restart and led the field into Turn 1. Exiting Turn 2, Sauter jumped from the bottom line to the top to block the advance of Matt Crafton. After moving down, the outside line pushed Crafton to the lead. Sauter worked his way alongside Crafton in Turn 1 but found himself sandwiched in between Crafton on the bottom and Ben Rhodes on top.
Exiting Turn 2, Rhodes, who was receiving a bump draft from Grant Enfinger, got loosened by his teammate, turned down and clipped Crafton’s truck. His truck did a 180 spin and the combination of air rushing under the back of his car and being hit by Sauter lifted his truck into the air, flipped it in a corkscrew motion and landed on all four wheels.
Twelve trucks were involved in the final lap wreck.
Grala, who was behind Crafton when he was clipped by Rhodes, was leading when the caution flew and declared the race winner.
He was so overrun with elation, he could barely answer how he won the race.
“Oh I wish you could tell me,” he exclaimed to Hermie Sadler in victory lane. “Oh my gosh. Yeah, I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t know how to do a doughnut. I don’t know how to do a victory lap like that. I just know *can’t make out* That was freaking awesome! I can’t believe we won Daytona! This completely changes our season and the way that we can play it. This is huge for our organization and for myself, for Jerry, for GMS, Keith Lewis. I can’t even believe this.”
Sadler asked him about his final 20 laps where he fell back and worked his way through the field.
“My radio chord came out on lap 79. So I drove almost to the end of the race no…Oh my God, someone flipped! (Referring to Crafton’s flip on the final lap as he watched a replay of it in victory lane) I drove almost the rest of the race without a radio on and barely through the green-white-checker, I got a radio on. Honestly, I got lucky coming out of (Turn) 2 there. I just didn’t lift and lucky everything went crazy around me. (I) hope everybody’s alright there, but oh I’m so happy with (how) that played out. I can’t even believe it.”
On the second lap of the event, there was a 17-truck wreck that was triggered by Chase Briscoe catching Noah Gragson at the wrong time, loosened him and turned him into the wall. Gragson came back down the track and clipped Austin Cindric, sending him into the outside wall. The rest of the trucks scattered and ran into one another, trying to avoid other spinning trucks in a plume of smoke.
There a few other smaller wrecks scattered through the race, including one involving race leaders Christopher Bell and Brett Moffit coming to the line at the end of stage 1.
This Camping World Truck Series race was the first NASCAR points-paying race to utilize stages, or segments, in any of its three national series.
The first stage was rather competitive with four lead changes in the first 20 laps, eight of which were run under caution.
The second stage was more collected with the field riding single-file for most of the 14 laps run under green (six under the caution from the end of stage 1). Other than a half-spin by John Hunter Nemechek in Turn 3 on lap 38, which didn’t bring out a caution, nothing threatened to break up the flow of the race until the end of stage 2 on lap 40.
Timothy Peters exited pit road first and restarted as the race leader. It only took Sauter two laps to work his way back to the lead, which he swapped with Rhodes a few laps later. The caution flew with 30 laps to go for a four-truck wreck.
With 23 to go, the field formed up into a single-file train hugging the bottom line. This was broken up by Nemechek spinning out on the backstretch with six to go, setting up the two-lap shootout and final lap wreck.
The race lasted one hour, 55 minutes and 38 seconds at an average speed of 129.720 mph. There were 14 lead changes among nine different drivers and six cautions for 29 laps.
Grala leaves Daytona with a 14-point lead over Sauter.