Kaulig Racing salvages top-10 results at Darlington

The NASCAR Xfinity Series return to on-track racing at Darlington Raceway for the Toyota 200 was a challenging day for Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain and Justin Haley, both of whom dealt with handling issues from the drop of the green flag. In the end, both were able to survive a late-race restart and walk away with top-10 results while earning valuable points towards the postseason.

The race was postponed to Thursday at noon ET from its scheduled date on Tuesday, May 19, due to persistent rain, but faced another delay of more than four hours on the postponed race date. Nonetheless, the jet dryers were able to dry the track to have the race prepared at 4:20 p.m. ET. 

When the race commenced, Haley started third based on a random draw while Chastain started ninth. Throughout the first stage, spanning 45 laps, Chastain displayed early speed and was able to drive his No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet as high as second despite battling tightness. Haley, meanwhile, fell back to ninth while reporting to his crew chief Alexander Yontz that his car was tight and needed more stability. 

Following a late caution that established a six-lap dash to the conclusion of the first stage, Chastain restarted on the front row alongside pole-sitter Noah Gragson and made a brief challenge for the lead, but Gragson was able to maintain the lead through Turn 4. At the stage’s conclusion, Chastain would finish second behind Gragson while Haley managed to finish 10th, which was enough to earn one stage point.

The second stage was where both Kaulig Racing competitors started to battle on-track handling issues to their respective Camaros. Restarting under green, Chastain restarted third while Haley restarted 11th. As the race progressed into a long run, Chastain started to struggle for grip through the turns and while on the throttle. With 11 laps remaining in the stage, he slipped in Turn 2 when Chase Briscoe got Chastain aero loose and slipping sideways. The light contact caused him to fall back as low as eighth while Briscoe, Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Michael Annett and Austin Cindric were able to pass Chastain. Haley, meanwhile, had fallen back to 15th at the start, but managed to work back to 12th through the long run.

When the second stage concluded, which was won by Kyle Busch, Chastain salvaged a seventh-place result after outlasting a back-and-forth, lap-by-lap exchange with Cindric for position while Haley finished 12th after continuing to battle with loose conditions to his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet. 

Under pit stops, both pitted for four fresh tires and fuel with Chastain receiving wedge adjustments and Haley receiving adjustments to the right rear of his car along with air pressure changes.

When the race resumed in the final stage, Chastain restarted sixth and Haley restarted 11th. They remained in the top-11 for the majority of the final run. Both teammates appeared to have top-10 runs established when Annett spun in Turn 4 and drew the race’s fifth caution with 15 laps remaining.

During the caution, Chastain and Haley joined the leaders in making a final round of pit stops. Chastain received air pressure and track bar adjustments to restart ninth while Haley received air pressure and wedge adjustments and restarted 11th despite opting to not take fuel.

In a nine-lap dash to the finish, Chastain and Haley were each able to gain one position for themselves, but were unable to mount a further charge to the front. When the checkered flag flew, Chastain finished eighth and Haley settled in 10th. They watched from a distance as Chase Briscoe withstood a last-lap battle against Kyle Busch to win.

Chastain and Haley each claimed their fourth top-10 result of this season. With the result, Chastain is fifth in the Xfinity Series regular-season standings and trails race winner and new points leader Briscoe by 35 points while Haley is eighth and trails by 55.

Chastain and Haley, along with their fellow competitors, will return for the next Xfinity Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway scheduled on May 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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