Justin Haley announces surprise move to Rick Ware Racing for next season

MARTINSVILLE, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 30: Justin Haley, driver of the #11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet, waits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dead on Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2021 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Longtime Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley announced Thursday that he’ll be departing the team to move to Rick Ware Racing for the 2024 season and beyond. 

It’s a surprise move: Haley developed with the Chevrolet team since his start in the Xfinity Series and moved with them to the Cup Series full-time last year. 

The announcement comes as the team heads into Pocono pushing for a Playoff berth, currently 46 points below the cutline, as Kaulig pointed out on Twitter at the same time Rick Ware released their announcement

For a driver in with a chance of earning a Playoff spot, Rick Ware Racing appears to be a step in the wrong direction. The team has fielded two cars so far this season, Nos. 15 and 51, both of which sit outside the top thirty in owners points, although JJ Yeley was able to drive to seventh at Atlanta

Their cars have featured a diverse roster of drivers this season, from old hands like Yeley and Brennan Poole to NASCAR legends like Ryan Newman and global stars Jenson Button and Andy Lally.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 19: JJ Yeley, driver of the #15 Barnett Southern Corporation Ford, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Lenovo Chevrolet, and Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 DoorDash Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

However, the team does have a technical alliance with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing that’s begun this season. According to RFK President Steve Newmark, when the partnership was announced, it’s “a technical alliance with probably a twist.”

“Getting on our campus, we’ll have even closer interaction just because of the proximity,” he added, “and folks will be talking. So we’re pretty excited because we think it’ll help both organizations.”

Haley’s multi-year deal with Rick Ware Racing gives him access to RFK Racing resources, and, potentially, first dibs at an available seat in the future. It’s also a move to the Ford camp after racing with Chevrolet throughout his Xfinity and Cup career.

“This is a unique opportunity that I look forward to,” Haley said in an announcement after the deal. “There are many key pieces of this program I believe can help me in taking the next steps in my NASCAR career.”

“I look forward to working with our key partners, and many additional RWR partners to be announced soon. The alliance with RFK Racing is going to be pivotal for the future of our on-track success,” he added.

Haley has contributed five top tens for Kaulig in the first eighteen races this year, with a best finish of second behind Shane van Gisbergen at the Chicago Street Race among them. 

It’s the closest he’s come in Cup Series career to matching the 2019 high of a win in the rain-shortened Daytona summer race in just his third start. 

“This is a great day for our team on many levels,” said team owner Rick Ware. “Having someone with Justin’s talent and background become part of our future is a testament to our commitment to growth over the past few years.”

“I have known Justin for a long time, respect all he has achieved in many forms of motorsports and look forward to great success together. His versatility as a driver in multiple series, the continuity we can build around Justin and the respect amongst his peers will pay great dividends for our team. He will be a great teammate for the RWR/RFK Racing alliance.”

Interestingly, the announcement on Twitter refers to Haley competing “full-time in the team’s Ford Mustang.” Perhaps, then, Rick Ware Racing will move down to one car and give full focus to its new driver. Only time will tell if the results follow.

Owen Johnson