SPARTA, Ky.–Justin Haley isn’t pining over the win that got away.
Yes, the 19-year-old nearly scored his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory with a last-lap pass at Daytona International Speedway last Friday.
TV and radio broadcasters proclaimed Haley the winner, but upon further review, the driver of the No. 24 GMS Chevy was penalized for going below the double-yellow line to advance his position. He was scored 18th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Although Haley started his celebration on the frontstretch, at what point did he realize Kyle Larson was officially declared the winner of the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250?
“Well, I did cross the start-finish line first,” Haley said. “In my belief, I still won – unofficially. But I don’t know when it sunk in. It was just kind of how it went. I don’t get the opportunity to go Xfinity Series racing much. How it was put to me this year is I’ve got Iowa, Daytona and Watkins Glen from GMS and those were my three shots to make something happen. And if I didn’t, then I wasn’t going to go too far in my career.
“So I had to make the most of it. I think I have to this point. Just really fortunate to get these opportunities because they don’t come along very often. I’m just super thankful that GMS – Mike Beam (general manager) and Maury Gallagher (owner) – put me in the car. It really means a lot to me. And they continue to support me in the truck series, so I’m super blessed.”
Haley is currently eighth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points. He scored his first career truck win on June 23 at Gateway Motorsports Park in dramatic fashion over Todd Gilliland.
Since last weekend’s defeat, Haley hasn’t had time to dwell on last Friday’s disappointment.
“It’s been good,” Haley said. “I flew out to the Fraternal Order of Eagles convention. They’ve been my sponsor the last two to three years. And they’ve been my primary sponsor in almost everything I’ve drove. Got the pleasure of seeing all them. Didn’t spend much time in the shop this week, but flew in out of Texas last night, got back to Charlotte, hopped on a plane and led first practice.
“So it’s been a pretty good week. We’ve got a fast truck, we won Gateway a few weeks ago. We’ve got more wins coming.”
He finished 10th Thursday night.