By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The throwback paint scheme that NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie Justin Haley will race for Kaulig Racing at Darlington Raceway will honor more than just drivers.
Haley’s No. 11 Raybestos Chevrolet Camaro SS is reminiscent of cars driven by Jeff Burton, Sterling Marlin, and Hut Stricklin throughout the 1990’s in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Raybestos is also the company that Bob Kaulig, father of team owner Matt Kaulig, worked at for 22 years.
“It’s a nice shade of blue offset with some red and white, some American colors,” Haley said. “It’s a cool car throwing back to Jeff Burton.”
Kaulig Racing had kept Bob Kaulig in the dark about the paint scheme and tribute. Unveiled the week of Father’s Day, he had simply been told to be at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the unveiling.
The first time Bob Kaulig saw the car was when he, Matt Kaulig, Haley, and team General Manager Chris Rice removed the cover. Upon the reveal, the elder Kaulig was blown away by the paint scheme his son’s team will compete with at Darlington.
“It’s incredible,” Bob said. “This is a huge, huge surprise. It looks wonderful. If you went in my basement, I have pictures of the older cars all over the place. To see it live, running on the track with my son’s team, Justin driving it, it is just amazing. And we’re standing in the Hall of Fame. It has significantly more meaning than the older cars. It’s Matt’s team, Kaulig Racing. It simply couldn’t be bigger or better than that.”
Burton retired from competing behind the wheel in 2014 and recently has been a part of the NBC Sports broadcast team. With that in mind, Haley was candid about the possibility about Burton being in the booth while he races a car reminiscent to Burton’s No. 8 Raybestos Brakes machine from 1994 and 1995.
“It doesn’t add any pressure to me, but maybe it will get us some more TV time if he’s up there calling the shots,” Haley said. “Jeff Burton’s seen a good part of my career. I grew up racing quarter-midgets with his son Harrison. Him and his family have always been nice to me. We’re throwing back to Jeff and Bob Kaulig who was with Raybestos for a long time. This means a lot to Kaulig Racing.”
Matt Kaulig admitted the thought of Burton possibly calling the race from the booth never crossed his mind.
“I never thought about him being in the booth,” Kaulig said. “I think it does (add pressure), but that’s all on Justin. We always try to find a driver to do a throwback scheme. I’ve gotten to know Jeff Burton a little bit, so we wanted to do a tribute to him as well. It just so happened that he drove the Raybestos car for a few years. It just worked out perfectly.”
Raybestos last sponsored a car in the Xfinity Series in 2011 when Denny Hamlin finished runner-up at the ‘Track too Tough to Tame.’ The company was also the former sponsor of the Rookie of the Year Award in the Cup Series.
Haley, who is competing for rookie honors in the Xfinity Series, has one top-five and 10 top-10 finishes so far this season. He is 45-points behind the rookie points leader, Chase Briscoe. The VFW Sports Clips Help A Hero 200 on August 31 will mark the 20-year old’s first trip to Darlington.
Kaulig Racing, which is in its’ fourth year of operation has three top-five and 34 top-10 finishes in 119 starts. The organization has made the Xfinity Series Playoffs in every season of its’ operation.
Haley currently sits 10th in the championship standings, 232-points behind points leader Tyler Reddick. He also has a 128-point cushion over Gray Gaulding, the first driver on the outside looking in for the playoffs.