Rick Ware Racing: Justin Haley/Cody Ware Talladega Race Advance

Talladega Advance

Event Overview

● Event: GEICO 500 (Round 10 of 36)
● Time/Date: 3 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 21
● Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
● Layout: 2.66-mile oval
● Laps/Miles: 188 laps/500 miles
● Stage Lengths: Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps
● TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Parts Plus/Grady Health Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Justin Haley makes his ninth NASCAR Cup Series start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday in the No. 51 Parts Plus/Grady Health Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Rick Ware Racing (RWR). The 2.66-mile oval was the site of Haley’s first Cup Series start in April 2019. He was running inside the top-20 when, with 10 laps to go, the racing at the front of the field started to get dicey. Haley dropped to the back of the lead pack but was unable to avoid trouble when a multicar accident involving competitors in the top-10 with just eight laps remaining.

● Haley’s best Cup Series finish at Talladega was his last, a sixth-place effort in Ocotber 2023. He’s finished inside the top-20 in all but two of his eight previous starts there.

● Two of Haley’s four superspeedway wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series came at Talladega, when he swept the June and October 2020 races. In five Xfinity Series starts at Talladega, he finished no worse than eighth and completed all 536 laps available. In two starts in the Craftsman Truck Series at Talladega, the 24-year-old has one top-five – a fourth-place finish earned in October 2018.

● Haley’s prowess on racing’s largest ovals started when, at 18 years of age, he drove to the win in the first superspeedway start of his career in the May 2017 ARCA Menards Series race at Talladega. He started 23rd and led just six laps in the rain-delayed race en route to victory.

● Haley began the season with a 26th-place effort in the Daytona 500 after starting 22nd. He ran well within the top-five before a mistake on pit road during the second stage set him back. A lack of cautions in the final stage prevented Haley from returning to the lead lap. He heads to Talladega with a 98.4-percent lap completion rate (2,848 of 2,893 laps available) on superspeedways.

● The Parts Plus brand, part of the The Pronto Network, the largest and most diverse automotive program distribution group in North America, will make its debut on the No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse this weekend as co-primary partner. Parts Plus began 2024 with an expansion of its partnership with RWR and its Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing Series Top Fuel driver Clay Millican.

● Grady Health makes its second appearance of the season on Haley’s Ford Mustang Dark Horse. It first rode along with Haley during his top-20 finish in February at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Grady Health will kick off its annual Move For Grady event next Saturday, April 27, in downtown Atlanta. Register to ride, run or walk at your pace, with three different distances to choose from and help raise money for Grady Health along the way.

Cody Ware, Driver of the No. 15 Jacob Construction Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Cody Ware, driver of the No. 15 Jacob Construction Ford Mustang Dark Horse for RWR, will make his eighth Cup Series start at Talladega this Sunday. His best finish at the 2.66-mile superspeedway was a 19th-place result earned in October 2020.

● Ware also made one Xfinity Series start at Talladega in 2019, finishing 21st for car owner B.J. McLeod, and one Truck Series start in 2015.

● In 13 Cup Series starts on superspeedways to date, Ware has completed 2,251 of 2,410 laps available – a completion rate of 93.4 percent. His career-best sixth-place superspeedway finish was secured Aug. 28, 2022 in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

● Earlier this year, Ware finished third in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge Jan. 20 on the Daytona road course. The following weekend, Ware and teammate Preston Pardus participated in the twin Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup races at Daytona.

● Jacob Construction returns to the No. 15 Ford Mustang Dark Horse for the first time in 2024. Jacob is a nationally certified, WBENC, woman-owned, multifaceted construction firm with a focus on construction, design-build services, structural concrete and technology.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● RWR driver Millican and the Parts Plus team competed in the Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. He qualified fourth, then scored the victory in the first round of eliminations to advance to the semifinals.

● Rick Ware has been a motorsports mainstay for more than 40 years. It began at age six when the third-generation racer began his driving career and has since spanned four wheels and two wheels on both asphalt and dirt. Competing in the SCCA Trans Am Series and other road-racing divisions led Ware to NASCAR in the early 1980s, where he finished third in his NASCAR debut – the 1983 Warner W. Hodgdon 300 NASCAR Grand American race at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. More than a decade later, injuries would force Ware out of the driver seat and into fulltime team ownership. In 1995, Rick Ware Racing was formed, and with wife Lisa by his side, Ware has since built his eponymous organization into an entity that fields two fulltime entries in the NASCAR Cup Series while simultaneously campaigning successful teams in the Top Fuel class of the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX), where RWR won the 2022 SX2 championship with rider Shane McElrath.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

You’ve been strong on superspeedways, and February’s Daytona 500 was a good event for the No. 51 team in terms of getting on track and starting to build a notebook. Has that helped with preparation and confidence heading into Talladega?

“Yeah, I think Talladega is where I’ve probably done the best, if I had to compare. I really enjoy superspeedway racing and I’ve been lucky to have a lot of success on these bigger tracks. It takes a lot of patience and understanding of what is going on ahead of you or even behind you. I think we learned a lot in Daytona and we have a really good shot at getting a great finish if we can clean up the little things.”

You made your first Cup Series start at Talladega. Do you remember what it felt like to complete that first race?

“I believe it was on my 19th birthday. I had my whole family there and ran in the top-10 for the majority of the day. We had my longtime sponsor Fraternal Order of Eagles on the car and it was just an awesome day. The feeling of finally achieving the dream of making it to the Cup Series. I had dreamed of it my whole life and put in so much work to get there.”

Grady Health will be back on the car this weekend. What has that partnership meant to you?

“I’m excited to continue the relationship with Grady and have them back on the car at Talladega. They’ve been a great partner and supporter of everything we’ve been doing, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to give them the same support for their Move for Grady event. The work they do as a level one trauma center, combined with all they do to give back to the Atlanta community, is amazing, and I’m proud to represent them both on the track and off.”

Cody Ware, Driver Q&A

What is the best strategy for superspeedway racing?

“I think the uncertainty of it all definitely makes for a more interesting race from start to finish, especially for the smaller teams. There’s a lot more strategy that goes into how you attack the race. For me personally, I think that I’ve had success on plate tracks because I do a good job of keeping out of trouble and I’m there the last five or 10 laps where it matters the most. So, I think my strategy for this race is the same as it always is at Daytona or Talladega, which is survive stage one and stage two, and just make sure we have a good race piece for the last couple laps of the race.”

What makes the racing at Daytona and Talladega so different?

“I think wreck avoidance is the biggest thing. It’s a lot easier at Talladega. You have a lot more room, especially on the backstretch with everything being concrete and paved. So to go from a place like Daytona with a lot of sharp changes in the banking to a place like Talladega, where you can easily race four- and five-wide, I think that you can be a little more aggressive at Talladega without taking as many risks. That just translates to a slightly safer plate-racing experience. But then, at the same time, not really because there’s a lot four-wide racing instead of three-wide racing. So I think that you know, again, it all goes out the window once the last couple of laps of the race come into play.”

You started the season with some IMSA racing. Is there anything at all that you can bring from that experience over to NASCAR?

“I’d say with what I was doing in the prototypes, when it comes to the stock car, it’s night and day. There’s not really anything to compare as far as horsepower, the braking, acceleration, downforce. To compare them is almost impossible. But just having any kind of seat time before Talladega is better than nothing. The prototype racing got my feet wet and got me ready to get back in the Cup car for the 2024 season.”

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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