Editor’s Note: Today’s Rick Ware Racing preview continues NASCAR.com’s countdown of team previews for the 2024 Cup Series season.
RICK WARE RACING
Engine: Roush Yates Engines
Driver-crew chief pairings: Kaz Grala and others-Billy Plourde (No. 15), Justin Haley-Chris Lawson (No. 51)
Team outlook: Rick Ware Racing will have a new look to its driver operation in 2024, with Grala and Haley piloting the majority and the entirety of the season, respectively. The 2023 campaign saw a collection of a dozen drivers pilot RWR Fords, with the team tallying two top-10 finishes, both at superspeedways (Daytona International Speedway in February and Atlanta Motor Speedway in July). Haley and Grala will be two brand-new additions to the Ford team, with their combined Cup experience solely stemming from Chevrolet camps. Together, these two drivers, in conjunction with additional part-timers in the No. 15, will look to cash in on more superspeedway success in the future. And who knows, perhaps this success can branch into other track departments, too.
KAZ GRALA AND OTHERS, NO. 15 FORD
Experience: 7 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series (Grala)
2023 stats: 17th in final Xfinity Series standings; 0 wins, 2 top fives, 9 top 10s (Grala)
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): N/A
Outlook: If there’s one area Grala has excelled in, it’s in national series experience. Through the 2023 season, the 25-year-old has piloted 77 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — including a full-time season with Sam Hunt Racing in 2023 — and 51 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. This experience should pay dividends while racing under the RWR moniker in 2024, with Grala scheduled to drive in 25 races for the team. Grala’s most recent Cup participation came in 2022 when he drove the No. 50 Chevrolet for TMT Racing. His two best finishes in the series are sixth at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021 and seventh at the Daytona International Speedway road course in 2020.
The 25-race stint will be ample opportunity for Grala to get acclimated to consistent driving time in the Cup Series. With five of his seven career Cup races coming at Daytona, Talladega or Charlotte Motor Speedway, there is a touch of superspeedway experience he brings as well. His 2023 Xfinity stint with Sam Hunt Racing additionally saw Grala excel at short tracks and road courses, with top-10 finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and the Chicago Street Course, to name a few. Although this success came in a different car compared to the Next Gen model, this experience can’t hurt to have on file as he navigates a bigger Cup workload. Such experience could be something both Grala and his new team can use to build more upward momentum.
RELATED: Grala’s career NASCAR stats
JUSTIN HALEY, NO. 51 FORD
Experience: Two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series
2023 stats: 26th in final standings; 1 top five, 6 top 10s
2024 championship odds (DraftKings): 400-1
Outlook: 2024 will mark a transition of sorts for the 24-year-old, who will move from the bowtie to the blue oval. The Indiana native departs from Kaulig Racing, where, in two full-time Cup seasons, compiled four top fives, 10 top 10s and led 68 laps, with 23 of those circuits coming in a runner-up finish during the inaugural Chicago Street Race. This contest also doubled as Haley’s best Cup finish outside of his victory at Daytona with Spire Motorsports in 2018. In addition to his lone Cup win, Haley additionally boasts two Xfinity wins apiece at Daytona and Talladega.
A superspeedway acumen has followed Haley since his time in the Xfinity with Kaulig. With a touch more seasoning, Haley can perhaps take another upward trajectory there and in other track types, too. Every young Cup driver undertakes a learning curve, and in RWR’s case, they will look for this learning curve to vault Haley forward in terms of on-track consistency.
BOLD PREDICTION: Haley matches his single-season top-five finish total (three in 2022) at the minimum in 2024. The saying goes that anything can, well, go at a superspeedway. Sometimes, being at the right place at the right time makes all the difference. Luckily for Haley, there is past superspeedway experience that could help the young driver find the right time to strike. Couple that with two career top-five finishes on road courses — including a runner-up result at Chicago last season — and there is a perfect storm for Haley to put together a successful debut season with RWR.
NASCAR.com 2024 team previews schedule
Jan. 15: Legacy Motor Club
Jan. 16: Spire Motorsports
Jan. 17: Kaulig Racing
Jan. 18: Wood Brothers Racing
Jan. 22: Rick Ware Racing
Jan. 23: Richard Childress Racing
Jan. 24: Stewart-Haas Racing
Jan. 25: Front Row Motorsports
Jan. 26: JTG Daugherty Racing
Jan. 29: Trackhouse Racing
Jan. 30: RFK Racing
Feb. 6: 23XI Racing
Feb. 7: Joe Gibbs Racing
Feb. 8: Hendrick Motorsports
Feb. 9: Team Penske