JUNE 4 — At the age of 23, Justin Haley is trying to find his way to the transition to a full-time contestant in the NASCAR Cup Series.
A veteran of the Xfinity Series and final four of the Truck Series in 2018, the Indiana native is one of 32 drivers to claim series wins at all three NASCAR Tours. But he is 25th in the Cup standings at the No. 31 Chevrolet College Race, also in his first year in full-time Cup racing, running Sunday’s race in Madison, Illinois, located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
“The most important thing was the competitiveness,” Hailey said of moving up the competitive ladder for NASCAR. “In trucks, 10-12 guys would probably be good. You get to Xfinity, there are 15-17 competing teams and drivers. You get to a cup, man, there are 40 of them. They are the best in the world, the best in the country, racers.” stock cars.
It’s a battle. It’s a battle to be good and fast. You see guys like Kurt Bosch succeed. He took that win a few weeks ago and got so emotional. It’s hard to win. Guys will go in tears and win many in a row. But it’s not That easy. You have to be perfect to get into the top 10. You should have a great day. You have to do on the pit road and on the racetrack, when you restart, in every aspect. Also for us, being a new team, to be able Over the competition, every week we have to dive deep into what will make us better. Understanding the basics, and the basics are 75% of it. But there are these little details that make a great good person.”
These are the things that people can control. There are those things – the weather, the competitors on the track hitting you or those around you – that affect performance – good and bad.
“This is the hardest thing in our sport at any level and it’s just the unknown,” Hailey said. “There are things you can control and things you cannot control. As long as I go in there every week and control what I can control, then you just have to work on it.
“We’ve had a really good series of races where we’ve been in top 15 races every week and we’ve had third place in Darlington. Since then we’ve been on fire, we’ve lost a wheel and blew an engine in the last three weeks. It’s a humble sport. You can go from the highest to the highest. Three weeks, and you’re low again. We’re trying to change that momentum.”
After Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway and next week’s trip to the road track in Sonoma, the series will take the Father’s Day weekend before the June 26 Ally 400 at the Nashville Superspeedway.
Hayley said that although different pathways may have similar characteristics, no two are exactly alike.
“You could probably build a racetrack, tear it down, and then build it exactly the same way, and it wouldn’t be the same just because of the water table below the surface and how the asphalt descends,” Hayley said. “There are a lot of complicated things.
“Then there’s the track temperature. We can go on trails like Charlotte. (Turns) 1 and 2 are always shaded because of the sun rising and going down throughout the day. Then 3 and 4 are very bumpy and rough because how the sun hits them. No two tracks are alike. They are definitely characteristics Similar to some points, but they are always a challenge and trying to find the best.”
Haley said he didn’t think much about racing at the Nashville Superspeedway with two races between then and now. But he remembers last year.
“Nashville was fun last year,” he said. “I’ve never been to Nashville. Obviously, you go downtown and you take the guys out to dinner and you make this deal.
“The racetrack itself, I wouldn’t really say I raced there last year. I would kind of kick in there and everyone was racing. It wasn’t very successful for us. But I’m looking forward to getting back out there and trying to figure it out again. It’s a tough racetrack. It’s definitely a challenge.”
Haley placed 35th last year in last year’s Ally 400, a day after placing 19th in the Tennessee Lottery 250 Xfinity, which he did not race this time.
“I left Nashville last year and thought, ‘Forget about this place,'” he said. “It’s just been a totally bad weekend for me. I’ll probably have to relearn what I learned last year. It’s been a great weekend. It’s a fun track. I’m looking forward to it.”
He loves the adjustments NASCAR has made to its schedule to get out of the pandemic by going to markets as different as St. Louis and Nashville.
“We’re going to a new racetrack in St. Louis,” he said. “We’re opening up the market, bringing the racetracks and racing series in your man’s backyard, going around the country and exploring the markets, to try and grow the sport. It’s great that NASCAR has been able to do that.”