Haley notches a thrilling win at Daytona

At the start of the final lap of the Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway, all three Kaulig Racing competitors led by A.J. Allmendinger and followed by Ross Chastain and Justin Haley were running at the front with an opportunity to win. When the checkered flag flew, two Kaulig competitors made contact and wrecked while the third competitor, Haley, escaped the carnage on the final lap to win at Daytona.

The victory was Haley’s second of his Xfinity Series career, second of this season after winning his first Xfinity career race at Talladega Superspeedway in June and the fifth NASCAR win overall for Kaulig Racing.

The starting lineup was based on three statistical categories: current owner points standings, the results from a previous Xfinity race and the fastest lap from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Chase Briscoe, coming off his victory at Dover International Speedway in part of a doubleheader weekend, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Ross Chastain. 

Rookie Riley Herbst was the only competitor to drop to the rear of the field due to an improperly mounted ballast discovered from his No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota Supra during the pre-race technical inspection, resulting in his car chief being ejected. In addition, he was assessed a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. Ryan Sieg, Josh Williams and Tim Viens retained their starting spots, but they all lost a pit stall selection for next weekend’s series race at Darlington Raceway due to multiple pre-race technical failures.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Briscoe received a push from Austin Cindric at the start to jump to an early lead. The top-eight competitors led by Briscoe ran in a single-file lane following by a bevy of competitors racing in double lanes for one lap around the superspeedway venue as Briscoe led the first lap.

The following lap, with Briscoe still leading, Cindric settled in second followed by Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain and Justin Haley while Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton were running inside the top six. Anthony Alfredo was in seventh place ahead of Brandon Brown, Alex Labbe and Brett Moffitt while JR Motorsports’ four-car lineup led by Noah Gragson and including Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Michael Annett were running inside the top 16.

By the fifth lap, Briscoe was still leading Cindric, Chastain and a bevy of cars racing in a single-file lane followed by a scattered pack racing in two lanes. Trailing the lead pack by more than 34 seconds was Herbst following his opening lap penalty.

Shortly after, the first caution of the race flew when rookie Joe Graf Jr. spun across the tri-oval/frontstretch, made contact with the outside wall and damaged his car following contact with Jeffrey Earnhardt as Caesar Bacarella also sustained damage. Following his incident, Graf was limping his No. 08 Bucked Up Chevrolet Camaro back to pit road when the right-rear tire on his car shredded and left a multitude of debris scattered across Turn 2. The shredded right-rear tire and the damage to the right side of Graf’s car also left his car beyond repairable to continue.

Following the incident, NASCAR declared the caution involving Graf, Earnhardt and Bacarella as the competition caution originally planned on the 10th lap. Under caution, few like Moffitt, Earnhardt, A.J. Allmendinger, Chad Finchum, Ryan Sieg and Herbst pitted while the rest led by Briscoe remained on track.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 11, Briscoe jumped ahead on the outside lane and moved in front of Cindric’s No. 22 Odyssey Battery Ford Mustang on the inside lane to retain the lead through Turn 1. Entering Turn 2, however, Haley made a charge on the outside lane and started to battle with Cindric for the runner-up spot. 

A lap later, just as Haley started to mount a challenge on Briscoe and Cindric for the lead, a rough start became worse for Bacarella as he wrecked on the backstretch and sustained heavy damage to the front nose of his No. 90 Alpha Prime/Maxim Chevrolet, thus brining out the second caution of the race. In addition, John Jackson was slowly limping back to pit road.

Under caution, some like teammates Gragson, Hemric, Allgaier and Annett along with Moffitt, Allmendinger and Sieg pitted while the rest led by Briscoe remained on the track.

The race restarted under green on Lap 17, and Briscoe jumped ahead and moved in front of Cindric with the lead again. In Turn 1, Burton mounted a challenge on the outside lane as he and Briscoe battled dead even for the lead. When the field returned to the tri-oval, Briscoe and his No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang were ahead by a nose over Burton and his No. 20 Dex Imaging Toyota Supra with the entire pack running close behind the leaders.

Two laps later, on Lap 20, Briscoe, who has led every lap thus far, was still ahead with the lead and in front of Cindric, Haley, Chastain, Alfredo and Brown. Not long after, Gragson, fresh off a one-year contract extension with JR Motorsports, started to move into the top five on the outside lane with his three teammates (Allgaier, Hemric and Annett) tucked behind. 

On Lap 23, Haley emerged with the lead followed by teammate Chastain and Alfredo while Briscoe fell back to fourth place alongside Brown. 

While the battling for the lead continued to intensify, the caution returned a lap later for an accident in Turn 1 involving Earnhardt, teammate B.J. McLeod and Kody Vanderwal, who came to rest below the Turn 1 infield grass with the hood raised above his No. 52 The Swag Spot Chevrolet. 

Under caution, some like Alfredo, Labbe, rookie Jesse Little, Myatt Snider, Josh Williams, Timmy Hill, Sieg and Allmendinger pitted while the rest led by teammates Haley and Chastain remained on track.

For the conclusion of the first stage, the field restarted under green for a one-lap shootout. At the start, Haley and his No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro jumped ahead and moved in front of teammate Chastain on the inside lane while retaining the lead. In addition, he pulled away in Turn 1 before Cindric and Chastain came charging along with the pack through Turns 2 and 3. Despite the run, Haley was able to fend off the field to win the first stage on Lap 30 and for his third stage victory of the season. Chastain settled in second place followed by Cindric, Brown and Briscoe while Herbst, Gragson, Allgaier, Jones and Hemric were scored in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the majority of the leaders pitted and Chastain emerged with the lead ahead of Briscoe and Haley. Following the pit stops, however, a number of competitors led by Hill, Labbe, Allmendinger, Williams, Moffitt, Sieg and Snider remained on track to occupy the top-seven positions.

The second stage started on Lap 34 with Hill leading as Allmendinger quickly made his way to second place. Back in seventh place in Turn 2 while also gaining a draft back to the front was Chastain with teammate Haley and Cindric also making their move back to the front. With the competitors running close to one another in a pack, Allmendinger made his way into the lead followed by teammates Chastain and Haley on Lap 36.

On Lap 40, with Allmendinger continuing to lead teammates Chastain and Haley followed by Cindric, the caution flew when contact from Briscoe and Jones, who was turning across the nose of Briscoe’s No. 98 Ford in Turn 3, resulted in Jones being spinning sideways as a multi-car erupted in Turn 4. The accident involved all four competitors from JR Motorsports (Gragson, Hemric, Allgaier and Annett) along with Moffitt, Labbe, Brown, Alfredo, Snider, Colby Howard and Tommy Joe Martins. 

When the race restarted on Lap 45, Allmendinger retained the lead on the inside lane followed by Cindric and Chastain. Shortly after, the caution returned for a multi-car wreck in Turn 3 when Allgaier, who was trying to continue after being involved in the first multi-car wreck, spun after cutting a tire and triggered another multi-car wreck that involved Labbe, Joey Gase, Snider, Brown and Jeremy Clements. Following the wreck, the race was red-flagged for more than 11 minutes while the safety workers cleaned up the carnage area in Turn 3.

When the race resumed under cautious pace and under green near the 50th lap, Allmendinger and Cindric battled for the lead through Turns 1 and 2. By then, Brown retired in the garage. Allmendinger, nonetheless, was able to retain the lead with his teammates Chastain and Haley tucked right behind. Meanwhile, Cindric dropped out of the top five after receiving no drafting help on the outside lane. 

At the halfway mark, Lap 50, Allmendinger and his No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet Camaro were still leading teammates Chastain and Haley followed by Herbst and Burton. A few laps later, the caution returned due to debris on the backstretch. Under caution, some like Chastain, Allmendinger, Haley and Hemric pitted while others led by teammates Herbst and Burton remained on track.

With five laps remaining in the second stage, Herbst moved in front of teammate Burton to emerge with the lead. Behind, Cindric, Allmendinger and Chastain wasted no time carving their way back to the front. The following lap, Gray Gaulding and his No. 07 Walk-Ons.com Chevrolet Camaro owned by Bobby Dotter started to challenge Herbst for the lead with Allmendinger behind.

With three laps remaining in the stage, Gaulding emerged with the lead while Allmendinger started to challenge Herbst for second place on the outside lane. On the final lap of the stage, with his Kaulig Racing teammates tucked behind him, Allmendinger was able to pass Gaulding on the backstretch and hold on to win the stage for his second stage victory of the season and the fourth of his career. Teammate Chastain muscled his way to second place followed by teammate Haley, Gaulding and Annett. Herbst, Burton, Briscoe, Cindric and Sieg settled in the top 10. By then, 25 competitors were running on the lead lap. In addition, names like Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Brett Moffitt and Brandon Brown were out of the race.

Under the stage break, some like teammates Allmendinger, Chastain, Haley and Sieg remained on track while the rest led by Gaulding, Cindric and Briscoe pitted.

With less than 40 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green and Allmendinger moved in front of teammates Chastain and Haley to retain the lead. While Allmendinger and Chastain managed to clear the field, Haley was locked in a battle for third place with Sieg. Not long after, Sieg was black-flagged due to having a rear bumper cover loose on his No. 39 CMRroofing.com Chevrolet. 

Remaining on track for three laps, Sieg made the turn to pit road to have the bumper cover addressed. At the same time, Hemric was also black-flagged to have a rear bumper replaced and addressed on his No. 8 Poppy Bank Chevrolet. Following his stop, however, Hemric was assessed a drive-through penalty on pit road for having too many crew members over the wall during his service.

With 30 laps remaining and with the laps continuing to wind down, Allmendinger and his No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet Camaro continued to lead a 10-car breakaway running in a single-file lane. Teammates Chastain and Haley were in second and third followed by Briscoe, Josh Williams and Cindric. Annett, the lone JR Motorsports competitors in the top 10, was in seventh followed by Herbst, Burton and Gaulding.

Five laps later, Allmendinger was still ahead of a 10-car breakaway followed by teammates Chastain and Haley while rookie Jesse Little, running in 11th place and leading the next wave of cars, was trailing by nine seconds. Another five laps later, with 20 laps remaining, Allmendinger continued to lead teammates Chastain and Haley, though all three Kaulig Racing Chevrolets were in question about having enough fuel to complete the race to its distance compared to their challengers behind them.

Under 15 laps remaining, the top-10 competitors led by Allmendinger were separated by nearly four seconds while the 11th-place car led by Little was trailing by 20 seconds. Five laps later and with 10 laps remaining, the following competitors of Cindric, Briscoe, Annett and Herbst overtook Haley for position while Allmendinger and Chastain continued to lead. By then, 16 competitors were running on the lead lap and the top-nine competitors were ahead of 10th-place Williams by nearly 10 seconds.

With five laps remaining and the top-nine competitors at the front still settling in a single-file line, nose to nose and bumper to bumper, Allmendinger was leading teammate Chastain while Cindric and Briscoe were behind.

With two laps remaining, entering Turn 1, Chastain and Briscoe attempted to pull beneath Allmendinger for the lead, but Allmendinger kept his car ahead of the pack after blocking the run. Chastain and his No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro remained in second while Briscoe fell back to seventh. 

When the final lap of the race started, Allmendinger was still leading and blocking Chastain, Cindric and Haley. Entering Turn 3, Chastain gained a run through Turn 2 and he attempted to make a move beneath Allmendinger for the lead and the win. Chastain ended up giving his teammate a bump in the turn that turned Allmendinger sideways as he spun with a multi-car wreck erupting that collected Chastain, Annett and Cindric. 

In the midst of the wreck, Haley dodged the carnage involving his teammates and came out on top as he was able to cruise across the finish line to grab a thrilling victory at Daytona.

The victory was Haley’s second at Daytona after he won his first NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona last July in a rain-shortened race while driving for Spire Motorsports. Including his three NASCAR Truck Series career victories in 2018, Haley has won six races across NASCAR’s three major division series. In addition, Haley’s last three victories across NASCAR have occurred on superspeedway venues.

“An amazing effort by Kaulig Racing,” Haley said on the frontstretch on NBCSN. “Obviously, I hate that A.J. and Ross got together there. As you guys at home can see, [team owner] Matt Kaulig, [team president] Chris Rice, we built a team and a family. We all work as one. Extremely proud of this LeafFilter Gutter Protection crew. [I] Can’t believe it. Two superspeedway wins in a row. Gotta say something for [spotter] Kevin Hamlin on the booth, too. Just a little lucky there. We got shoved out and I was a little frustrated, but that’s why you never give up. These things are so unpredictable. An incredible effort today. We swept everything [stages and race win]. Extremely proud of everyone.”

Haley’s victory at Daytona was also redemption from the Xfinity Series race at Daytona in July 2018, where Haley, driving for GMS Racing, made a bold three-wide pass for the win on Kyle Larson and Elliott Sadler entering the tri-oval for the win. While he was able to clear both competitors and streak across the finish line in first place, he completed his pass with his left-side tires crossing beneath the double yellow line zone. As a result, Haley was disqualified and demoted back to the last car on the lead lap while Larson was awarded the win.

“[I] Parked it right here on the double yellow line [area] where I went down too low about two years ago in a Xfinity race,” Haley added. “A little humor there.”

Behind Haley, Gray Gaulding tied his career-best result of second place in his 43rd series start followed by Briscoe, Herbst and Burton. Chastain, Annett and Cindric limped across the line in sixth, seventh and eighth while Williams and Little finished in the top 10. Allmendinger, who was unable to limp his car back to the finish line, ended his race in 15th place.

Following the race, Allmendinger made the mandatory post-race trip to the infield care center. Both Kaulig Racing teammates, at the end, expressed no ill will towards one another with Chastain defending his move and attempt to win to lock himself into the Xfinity Playoffs.

“Hopefully, we get some good ratings on that one,” Chastain said on pit road on NBCSN. “Terrible to run into your teammate like that. It must be my fault, though. It’s unfortunate, we did everything right all night. Man, we just got to win. This No. 10 car, Nutrien Ag Solutions. [I] Did everything right to be the best teammate I could. I haven’t always been. Last lap, I don’t back down and I’m gonna go for it. If I wasn’t there, if I watch the replay, but he got turned, so it wasn’t completely into the bumper. I hate it, man! It’s not gonna help me moving forward. It doesn’t matter how many races each of us run. We’re supposed to go for the win. Team rules the last 10 laps, and we all stayed committed. I hated that Justin got shoved out there with 10 or five [laps] to go. Coming to the checkered, what am I supposed to do? Just finish second? Not this guy.”

“It’s the way it is,” Allmendinger added in the infield care center on NBCSN. “We’re proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing for building really fast Chevys. [I] Wanted to do everything I could to get that Ellsworth Advisors Chevy in Victory Lane. I try to take care of my teammates, but it is what it is. It’s for the win. Ross is going for the championship and going for a win there. I saw him get low and I thought he’d, maybe, take care of me a little bit, considering I was there. He’s going for the win. It is what it is. It’s just disappointing. We were gonna have another 1-2-3 Kaulig finish at Daytona. It’s part of life, it’s racing. More importantly, congrats to my little bro, Justin Haley, and at least getting a Kaulig Racing Chevy in Victory Lane. That’s the most important thing. We’re bringing more trophies home for Matt Kaulig and that’s all that matters. He’s going for the win. I get it.”

There were nine lead changes for seven different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 28 laps.

With his top-10 result, Cindric continues to lead the regular-season series standings by 58 points over Briscoe.


1. Justin Haley, nine laps led, Stage 1 winner

2. Gray Gaulding, two laps led

3. Chase Briscoe, 22 laps led

4. Riley Herbst, four laps led

5. Harrison Burton

6. Ross Chastain, one lap led

7. Michael Annett

8. Austin Cindric

9. Josh Williams

10. Jesse Little

11. Vinnie Miller

12. Colby Howard

13. Brandon Jones

14. Tommy Joe Martins

15. A.J. Allmendinger – OUT, Accident, 58 laps led, Stage 2 winner

16. Matt Mills, one lap down

17. Mike Harmon, one lap down

18. Tim Viens, one lap down

19. Myatt Snider, one lap down

20. Jeremy Clements, two laps down

21. Anthony Alfredo, two laps down

22. Timmy Hill, three laps down, four laps led

23. Ryan Sieg, four laps down

24. Daniel Hemric, eight laps down

25. Chad Finchum – OUT, Engine

26. Brandon Brown – OUT, Dvp

27. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Accident

28. Joey Gase – OUT, Dvp

29. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Accident

30. Alex Labbe – OUT, Accident

31. Noah Gragson – OUT, Accident

32. B.J. McLeod – OUT, Accident

33. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Accident

34. Kody Vanderwal – OUT, Accident

35. John Jackson – OUT, Handling

36. Caesar Bacarella – OUT, Accident

37. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Accident.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will run its next scheduled race at Darlington Raceway on September 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. 

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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