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

JUSTIN HALEY | KAZ GRALA
Iowa Advance
Event Overview

● Event: Iowa Corn 350 powered by Ethanol (Round 17 of 36)
● Time/Date: 7 p.m. EDT on Sunday, June 16
● Location: Iowa Speedway in Newton
● Layout: .875-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 350 laps/306.25 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 70 laps / Stage 2: 140 laps / Final Stage: 140 laps
● TV/Radio: USA / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 MotoRad Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● The NASCAR Cup Series moves from California’s Wine Country to America’s Heartland for its inaugural race at Iowa Speedway in Newton. Though it’s the first time the Cup Series will take on the .875-mile oval, the track is familiar to NASCAR fans and many of its drivers who competed at the venue that hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series from 2009 through 2019.

● While this is the first year Iowa has been included on the Cup Series schedule, Rick Ware Racing (RWR) driver Justin Haley has five previous starts at the track. The MotoRad driver made his Xfinity Series debut at Iowa on June 17, 2018, when he started 13th and finished 12th for GMS Racing. In three Xfinity starts at Iowa, he finished no worse than 13th and earned a best finish of eighth in the last NASCAR event held at the track. In his first Craftsman Truck Series start at Iowa in 2017, Haley started seventh and finished 10th. It was the fourth of eight consecutive top-10 finishes during a streak that began with the fourth race in his rookie season in the Truck Series.

● The 2016 K&N Pro Series East champion also made four starts at Iowa in what is now the ARCA Menards Racing Series from 2014 to 2016. Haley finished fourth three times in a row – May and July 2015, and July 2016.

● Despite retiring from the race early in last Sunday’s event at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway due to steering issues, Haley is ranked seventh among drivers in laps completed (4,416) and eighth in miles completed (5,579).

Kaz Grala, Driver of the No. 15 Remixers.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Remixers.com returns to Kaz Grala’s No. 15 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for the Cup Series’ first event at Iowa. Like his RWR teammate, Grala is already familiar with the track, having competed there in the Xfinity Series, Truck Series and the ARCA Menards Racing Series.

● Grala competed just once in the Xfinity Series at Iowa, earning a 10th-place result for Fury Race Cars in June 2018. It was the second top-10 for the team in just four races. Grala also competed at Iowa twice in the Truck Series, but fared better in the ARCA Menards Racing Series, where he earned two top-10s in four races during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

● In last weekend’s event at Sonoma, Grala drove the No. 15 Ford Mustang Dark Horse to a 23rd-place finish after battling power steering problems early in the race. It was his fourth top-25 in 13 races this season and just his 20th start in the Cup Series.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● Progressive American Flat Track (AFT) racers Kody Kopp, Briar Bauman, and Shayna Texter-Bauman are back in action this weekend at the Orange County Half-Mile in Middletown, New York. Mission AFT SuperTwins rider Bauman has one win on the season and sits fourth in the standings. He returns to Orange County, where he finished second in the 2023 event. In AFT Singles, Kopp looks for his fourth win of the season at a track where he is the defending winner. He leads the championship by 22 points.

● In last weekend’s Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing Series events at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, Top Fuel driver Clay Millican won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge for the first time in his 11,000-horserpower Parts Plus/RWR dragster, going 3.839 seconds at 302.41 mph to eliminate Shawn Langdon in the specialty race. Millican also claimed the No. 1 spot in qualifying for the first time this season and the 26th time in his career with a run of 3.786 seconds at 325.06 mph Friday. He advanced to the semifinal round Sunday, where he was defeated by eventual event-winner Tony Schumacher.

● 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, 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

You ran fairly well at Iowa Speedway in the Xfinity and Truck Series. How did you feel when it was added to the Cup Series schedule?

“Yeah, Iowa was always pretty good to me. We did really well there in K&N and I got to make my first Xfinity start there. I just remember it being really hot and really feeling like we were fighting for position every lap. Iowa has always put on a great show and the fans always turn up, so I’m excited for all of them to finally get to see Cup cars there.”

How much does the full practice on Friday help with race preparation?

“It makes a big difference. You definitely want to show up with a few different things you want to try, and that extra time helps so much, especially for the smaller teams like Rick Ware Racing. It’s a level playing field for everyone this weekend and that practice session could put us ahead of some of the other teams we’re usually battling. We’ll learn a lot about what the track is like now and how that compares to what I remember and what we’ve looked at in sim. More track time is always better, we just have to use it to our advantage.”

Is Iowa a chance for the No. 51 team to get back on track after the last weekend’s struggles at Sonoma?

“I think so. One off race doesn’t take away everything we’ve been working on. We’ve come a long way since the start of the season and I expect we’ll continue to improve. Everyone has off days. You hope you don’t, but it happens, and it’s how you handle it and move forward that really shows what the team is capable of. I’m excited for this weekend and I think we’ll do really well at Iowa.”

Kaz Grala, Driver Q&A

There has been a lot of push from drivers and fans to add Iowa to the Cup Series schedule. Why do you think there is so much excitement around this race?

“I’ve raced at Iowa a bunch of times in Trucks, Xfinity, and K&N, and it’s always been such a great racetrack. It always puts on a good show, it’s fun, the fans always show up, and I feel like it was the perfect place to have a race. I am curious to see how the track’s going to race now because, of course, it is not the same race track that it was when we last raced it in 2019. I think even those of us who have raced at Iowa before are treating this like a brand new racetrack. We’ll be starting from scratch with a 50-minute practice and, hopefully, we figure it out quicker than other people. I feel like weekends like that you have an opportunity to do so, when we all start from ground zero.”

There has also been a lot of talk about the repave or patching that has been done at Iowa. How do you expect that to impact things?

“From what I’ve heard about this, it’s pretty much almost a repave but only on the bottom lane or lanes. It’s going to be pretty narrow and, of course, that’s going to be worth a lot of grip. So that means if you’re off, you’re going to have zero grip. I expect it’s going to be the world’s most single-grooved racetrack. Now, that might actually make the racing exciting because you might be able to get guys out of the groove and create a race with a lot of passing. But it’s hard to say exactly how it’s going to race until we actually get out there.”

Rusty Wallace modeled Iowa after a few other tracks when he was designing it, but does it actually race like any other track we visit?

“It’s always reminded me of Richmond, but in Iowa you always had a wider track where you could move around a lot more and there were bumps. So there were some things that you didn’t fight at Richmond that you would fight in Iowa. So, I guess the answer is yes and no, to an extent. We’ll see how things plays out this weekend with the patchwork and everything else.”

Do you remember what it was like the first time you drove up to Iowa and saw a racetrack in the middle of a cornfield?

“Yeah, it is in the middle of nowhere, but it is so cool. I always found it fascinating that when we were there in K&N or Trucks, there was really nothing around there, but you get to the track and it’s packed and there’s always a ton of fans. People love it. So you know, wherever they’re coming from, they’re all about it.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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