By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Justin Haley is simply focused on competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as there’s no sign of him running in the Cup Series anytime soon, including next month’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
When I asked about Haley’s plans of running the race due to last July’s upset victory in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, he confirmed during Thursday’s video conference the sport’s top level is not on his radar.
“There’s no talk of any kind of Cup starts for me,” Haley responded.
In fact, Haley also confirmed that he was intending of competing in next Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but a sponsorship deal fell through. He openly discussed his disappointment on the financial hardships the entire sport are going through that may parlay into the Homestead-Miami Speedway doubleheader.
“That was kind of a bummer. I would love to say I can do more Cup races, but money is tight,” said Haley. “Especially in these times and it’s kind of hard to bring new sponsors to the sport right now. You can’t get the sponsor to the track and I know NASCAR is working so hard on doing that. But no, I can’t say I’m planning on doing any Cup starts in the near future.”
Shifting gears, Haley’s challenge going into Saturday’s Hooters 250 is not pushing his No. 11 Leaf Filter Chevrolet Camaro to the limit, such as damaging the car. That’s because there’s no room for error and will play it conservative due to the field only allowed to run one car for both races unless problems were to occur Saturday.
“We really can’t to a backup car. We have backup cars ready, but the first race you have to be conservative,” Haley’s approach for Saturday’s race. “You don’t want to go run up way close to the wall and damage the car. If we damage the car, we have three hours to put a motor in it and everything else.
“I think Saturday, you’re going to see the race more spread out. Then Sunday it’s going to be an all-out Xfinity race.”
Haley also happens to be one of four drivers competing in Sunday’s Dash 4 Cash as the main build is the tag team battle between JR Motorsports (Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric) and Kaulig Racing (Haley and Atlanta winner A.J. Allmendinger).
Fresh off his third-place finish, Haley discussed what it meant for him and the entire team competing in the $100,000 contest as the team’s hard efforts are paying off, hoping it’ll lead to his first NXS victory.
“(A.J.) getting that win at Atlanta (and me finishing third) was pretty big for Kaulig Racing. We’ve had a lot of speed the past few races which has been refreshing,” said Haley. “We’ve worked long hard hours during quarantine before NASCAR and the state shut us down.
“We kind of got ahead where I think other teams didn’t, so we’ve kind of hit the ground running after we came out of it. Having two cars in the show to race for it is obviously big and being to go there is a good thing, so will see it’ll take us.”
Since Allmendinger began racing for Kaulig last year and even GMS Racing the year before, Haley has awesomely embraced him as a father due to their similar personalities and how much he’s grown as a competitor. Even the two riding together and having some Cracker Barrell.
“We joke around a lot, but he actually calls me his son and I call him his father. I don’t know if that’s weird because he is almost like a dad figure to me,” Haley on Allmendinger. “He’s kind of taking me in and we kind of have the same personality. How we control ourselves at the races, our temper level and things like that.
“I feel like he can relate to me a lot and I can relate to him. We’ve actually had a good amount of sit downs, talking about it and going up to see Matt (Kaulig). We had a few long talks and (A.J.) hasn’t only helped me on the race track, but also become a better person and race car driver.”
Saturday’s race is scheduled to air live at 3:30 pm EST on FOX while Sunday’s Contender Boats 250 takes place at Noon EST on FS1.