After having exactly a dozen drivers moonlight in its cars last season, Rick Ware Racing is taking a slightly more conventional approach to the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series campaign.

While the organization founded by former NASCAR driver turned team owner Rick Ware will still have one car — the No. 15 Ford — with multiple drivers, its other car — the No. 51 Ford — will be driven exclusively by team newcomer Justin Haley.

Haley, who spent the last two seasons as a full-time Cup Series driver for Kaulig Racing, joins an organization that’s winless and has only one top-five finish in its Cup Series history dating back to 2012. Haley logged four top-fives over his two years with Kaulig and scored his lone Cup Series win to date in a rain-shortened race at Daytona International Speedway in the summer of 2019.

While Haley should provide a talent boost and some overall stability for Rick Ware Racing, the 24-year-old Indiana native isn’t quite sure about his prospects for this season, especially given the organization’s lack of resources compared to most Cup Series teams and its extremely limited success so far at NASCAR’s highest level.

“You kind of have to see where we land,” Haley said. “It’s an ultra-competitive racing series, and it’s gonna take some time. Obviously, with everything we have going, I feel like all of our alliances with Ford and Roush Yates Engines and RFK (Racing) have grown a lot over the offseason, and I continue to see those grow. The first five to 10 races we’ll kind of be what we are, and then everyone at RWR will start to elevate and start to hit our stride. 

“We’ll just have to see. It’s not gonna be like we go and rip the first 10 wins off of the season. I feel like we’re realistic, but I also feel like we really want to be competitive, and there is all the right tools now to be competitive at Rick Ware. We have every single tool. We just have to take them out of the toolbox and figure out how to use them and apply that.”

The primary driver of the team’s other car is Kaz Grala, who’s scheduled to strap in the No. 15 machine for 25 of 36 points races. Grala enters the season with only seven career Cup Series starts, which came between 2020 and 2022.

The 25-year-old from Boston, Massachusetts has spent significantly more time and enjoyed significantly more success in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, recording 19 top-10 finishes in 77 starts in the former division and the same number of top-10s in 51 truck starts.

Grala’s only NASCAR national series victory to date came in the 2017 truck season opener at Daytona, where he won from the pole. To suggest Grala is merely excited about his new role with Rick Ware Racing at the sport’s highest level would be an understatement.

“A lot of anticipation,” Grala said. “I didn’t get a chance to race in the Cup Series last year, but I did a couple of years before and had always hoped that I’d make it back to do more races. I feel like I have unfinished business. My goal, my dream would be to race in the Cup Series full time for years to come, so I feel like this is a huge opportunity for me to try to make that a reality. 

“I think that Rick Ware Racing is putting all the pieces in place to be able to go out and impress and make the most of this opportunity, so that’s what my focus is on.”

One driver who’ll jump behind the wheel of the No. 15 car in at least one race Grala doesn’t enter is full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Riley Herbst, who’s set to compete for Rick Ware Racing in the upcoming Daytona 500.

Herbst finished came home 10th for RWR in last year’s Daytona 500, a race that marked his Cup Series debut. He’s since made three additional starts in NASCAR’s premier division, earning a career-best finish of ninth place last October at Talladega Superspeedway — which, along with Daytona, is one of NASCAR’s two true superspeedways.

“Riley continues to impress as a driver,” Rick Ware said. “He showcased what we could do together by securing a top-10 in his first Cup Series start in last year’s Daytona 500, so we look forward to using that as our benchmark when we return to do it again in a few weeks.”

As for what the organization can accomplish in 2024, Grala — like Haley — doesn’t know how high to raise the bar. So, his plan for now is to simply do his best and see where the proverbial road leads.

“We don’t really have any idea what our expectations could be, but I think that’s kind of exciting,” Grala said. “It means the sky’s the limit. Expectations probably aren’t sky high, so that gives us an opportunity to maybe do something special.”

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