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Grala, Biffle overcome pit road problems, fight into Daytona 500

Greg Biffle’s Daytona 500 ride. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Winning is never easy in racing, even if it’s beating just one other car. On Thursday, that’s all Kaz Grala and Greg Biffle needed to do.

Grala needed to beat JJ Yeley and Biffle needed to beat Timmy Hill in their respective duels to advance to Sunday’s 64th annual Daytona 500. The two are on opposite ends of the career spectrum. Grala has made just four NASCAR Cup Series starts, while Biffle, 52, has made 510 Cup starts, winning 19 of them.

But, despite different racing resumes, both drivers transferred from their duels to the main event this weekend, despite pit road problems for each.

After a problem with the digital dashboard, Grala dropped to the rear to begin Duel 1. Yeley fell out of the draft in the opening laps with Noah Gragson, who had locked himself into the Daytona 500 on speed. About 20 laps in, Grala lost the draft and began losing time. He rejoined the pack a lap down and took to the pits with other Chevrolets on Lap 35. However, another issue with the dashboard resulted in a speeding penalty, which is a pass-through on pit road. After the penalty, Grala sat two laps down and out of the transfer spot.

“When we first blended off after that penalty, we were pretty much by ourselves,” Grala said. “We picked up the 41, but just the two of us weren’t going to be able to do anything as far as catching the 55. I got ingratiated into that line there; Kurt Busch picked me up from behind.¬†That was key for me. I needed a pusher.”

Kaz Grala advanced to the Daytona 500 with a last-lap pass. (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish)

Yeley linked up with BJ McLeod in a two-car draft for most of the race, which ran about two seconds slower than the main pack. Grala rejoined the main pack and slowly closed the gap on Yeley and McLeod.

On the final lap, Grala passed Yeley for the transfer spot in Turn 1. Yeley tried to join the draft, but couldn’t in enough time to re-pass Grala

“It went from puke to puke, puking nervous to puking excited at the end,” Grala said. “I was worried as we rode by him on that last lap, I didn’t know if he was going to try something, try to block, shoot down in front of us. There wasn’t a hole for him, but I was worried about whatever he might try because you’ve got to try.”

Duel 2 wasn’t nearly as competitive for the transfer spot. Jacques Villeneuve had already transferred based on qualifying speed, so it was just Biffle vs. Hill.

Biffle wasted no time in his first Cup appearance in six years, racing from the rear into the top-10 in just 20 laps. Hill had already fallen a lap down, meaning it was Biffle’s to lose.

Biffle pitted on Lap 33 and lost the draft on exit after a slow pitstop. He remained on the lead lap and eventually connected with Alex Bowman in a two-car draft to save some time.

“My biggest fear all night and these last couple days was losing the draft,” Biffle said. “We come down to pit, and we’ve got some new guys there, and we had an issue getting fuel in it, and I knew we lost the draft.

“I don’t know what happened, but the 48 car was in the middle there, so he picked us up and pushed us for a while, and then we were actually able to get back together with some other guys.”

Hill had fallen three laps down with 15 to go and Biffle was eventually lapped with 10 to go. But, it wouldn’t matter as Biffle transferred to the Daytona 500 with a three-lap buffer

“I have not slept much in the last couple days just trying to keep a cool composure,” Biffle said. “I’ve been nervous about this race because there’s so many things that can happen and so many ways it can go… we’re really excited about it.”

Biffle and Grala will start the 64th annual Daytona 500 in 28th and 35th, respectively. Joey Logano will drop to the rear after a crash sent him to a back-up car at the end of Duel 2.

The Daytona 500 is set for Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX.


Nathan Solomon is a junior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as the managing editor for his campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for his campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. The station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute baseball content and started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021 and became managing editor in spring of 2022. He is also an NMPA journalist.

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