Justin Haley on track at Kansas Speedway. (HHP/ Tim Parks)

Speed ‘Starting To Get There’ For Haley, RWR  

Justin Haley achieved something no other Rick Ware Racing driver has done since its inception in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2017 — score a top-10 finish on a track that is not a superspeedway.

Haley, in his first season aboard the No. 51 Ford Mustang for the two-car operation, snagged a ninth-place finish at one of NASCAR’s toughest race tracks, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

While the track, known as The Track Too Tough To Tame, is a circuit that tends to chew up race cars, Haley was competitive throughout the 400-mile race en route to notching his first top-10 finish of the season.

The finish, however, didn’t come out of the blue. Haley ran within the top 10 in multiple races, including at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway earlier in the year where he finished 17th.

For the 25-year-old, he believes his top 10 at Darlington was the latest breakthrough in the team’s uptick in performance.  

“It’s something I feel like we’ve been working toward throughout the season,” Haley said. “At the start of the season we had some struggles just with a new crew chief, new spotter, new pit crew, just kind of the issues you probably don’t realize moving to a new team that are quite so significant as they are. 

“Just having everyone mesh together, and I feel like over the past two weeks we’ve started to execute how we feel like we should be able to and Darlington was another step at that. I feel like our cars have been fairly competitive and quite quick recently, and I feel like the balance is what I like,” Haley continued. 

“I just feel like it’s taken longer than what we wanted to reach this point of having relative speed to be able to compete for top 10s and in the top-15 area, but I feel like that’s where we should run every once in a while, so the speed is starting to get there.”

While the speed is beginning to show on-track, Haley’s off-track presence grew significantly ahead of this weekend’s All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.

Since Haley isn’t locked into the All-Star Race, he’ll have multiple chances to do so — by winning one of the stages in the All-Star Open or via the fan vote.

Haley and RWR have been promoting a “HaleYes” presidential election-like campaign, encouraging fans to vote for him.

For Haley, it’s been a unique experience to put himself out there.

“This has been a great spot for me to break out and show some personality in a professional setting,” Haley said. “It’s definitely been cool for me, especially like this week at Darlington. Just leaving the race track there were a lot of fans screaming “HaleYes” and things like that, so the reaction from the fans at the track is more than I ever expected and it kind of realizes what we’re doing. 

“You can do it and you can post it and it’s all cool, but until you have the fans interact with you it really validates what you’re doing. 

“I feel pretty good about it going into Sunday.”