TOLEDO, Ohio (May 16, 2018) -- What began as a six-race experimental deal in 2018 with Chad Bryant Racing (CBR), has evolved into a full-time program for Mahwah, N.J. rookie Joe Graf, Jr.
It certainly didn't hurt that Graf nearly won the General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway in his first attempt back in late April, coming in second after a photo finish.
"Yeah I'm really happy with the way everything has gone," said Graf. "We've been nothing but pleased; they have a great program. I'd like to thank Chad Bryant (Racing) and Big Tine for making it possible. I wouldn't be able to do this without their help."
Graf and the CBR team tested at Toledo Speedway Monday in preparation for this Sunday's Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care.
"The test went really well. That track is a lot of fun. It's the type of track that I grew up racing…not necessarily in a car like this, but the track seemed familiar to me. I liked it a lot."
Car owner Chad Bryant also liked what he saw during the test.
"That was the best test I've had in sometime," said Bryant. "We're all really looking forward to going back."
They won't have to wait long. The 77th running of the Menards 200 at Toledo is coming this weekend, May 19-20. With the General Tire 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway four days later, it's game-on for CBR and Graf.
"It's certainly a good thing for us," Bryant continued. "We're going to run with Joe the rest of the year. I think it speaks volumes for our program and the ability we've shown to do well. We're a development team; Joe's a development driver. He's definitely got the potential and someone we very much want to work with the rest of the year. We couldn't be more pleased here at Chad Bryant Racing. This announcement couldn't have come at a better time. Our plan is to perform at a level we're all accustomed to."
Graf will be working with NASCAR Cup champion crew chief Paul Andrews all season. He'll also have an assist from his driver coach Mike Bliss, also a veteran of NASCAR racing. It won't hurt having Bryant around either. Bryant crew-chiefed Chase Briscoe to the 2016 ARCA national championship.
"Paul's worked with him the most…he's very pleased. We're going to bring our very best people with our very best equipment and try and get him ready for the next level. Big Tine will be on the car for the rest of the year. We have great rapport with all the folks at Big Tine…we're blessed to have them."
Like so many rookies on tour, Graf has never raced on the tracks he'll be going to this season. No matter; his confidence has never wavered.
"To be honest, I've always been more on the confident side, maybe to a fault," Graf said. "I learned so much at Talladega from the start to the finish. The whole experience really helped bolster my confidence. We had the best car out there."
After his productive test at Toledo, Graf is really looking forward to this Sunday's race, and all the rest.
"I feel like we're going to be really good at Toledo. I'm really looking forward to it; but I'm looking forward to all of them…Charlotte's going to be so much fun. ARCA just has a really good schedule, one of the best in racing. I'm excited about all of them (tracks). Never been on dirt, so that should be interesting."
Graf, since making his ARCA Racing Series debut at Nashville in early April, has been driving with a broken left foot that he injured playing basketball.
"It's been healing up nicely. I'd say it's about 80% so we continue to make good progress."
Graf Jr. will be a freshman at NYU in the fall and is working with the prestigious New York City-based university to balance his academics with his racing career. Education has always been at the forefront of Graf’s development and his future in racing is based on getting his degree in Business, Media & Sports Management.
“I am excited to be running the full ARCA schedule, but I can't wait to start my education at NYU in the fall. I believe that you can balance your racing career with getting a solid education. My counselor at NYU is working with me so that I can pursue my dream in a race car while learning skills that I will have my entire life.”