Justin Haley wins rain-shortened Daytona for first Cup Series victory
After leading just one lap, Justin Haley was declared the winner of Sunday’s rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona, giving him a win in his third career Cup start and providing one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history.
The win is the first for Spire Motorsports and comes in its first year of existence. It did not have a top-20 finish in its first 17 races. It’s best finish was 22nd with Jamie McMurray in the Daytona 500.
Haley, 20, is a native of Winamac, Indiana, and drives full-time for Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series. He’s only the fourth driver in the modern-era to win within their first three career Cup starts. He’s the first part-time driver to win in Cup since Brian Vickers at New Hampshire in 2013.
Haley inherited the lead under caution when Kurt Busch pit after NASCAR initially declared they would go back to green a lap later. But the red flag was displayed for lightning in the area, stopping the race with 33 laps to go.
Haley was in position to inherit the lead after an 18-car crash with 43 laps to go.
“It’s absolutely a blessing,” Haley told NBC Sports. “It’s pretty incredible to have so many great people around me that have given me this opportunity to come to this level and the stage we’re performing on. ... I never even saw myself running a Cup race until I got a call a few months ago to do Talladega. It’s just unreal. I don’t know how to feel.”
Following Alex Bowman’s win last weekend at Chicagoland, this is the first time two drivers have earned their first Cup wins in consecutive races since Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. in 2007.
“The stars aligned,” Haley said. “I didn’t ever think I was going to get redemption back from last year at Daytona when I got the Xfinity win taken from me.”
Haley crossed the finish line first in last year’s July Xfinity race at Daytona, but was disqualified after it was ruled he went below the yellow lines on the bottom of the track to make a last-second pass.
Sunday’s top five was completed by William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon and Ryan Newman.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Joey Logano
STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Dillon
WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Ty Dillon earned his first career Cup top five in his 108th start ... Corey LaJoie finished sixth with his first career top 10 in his 75th Cup start ... Matt DiBenedetto placed eighth for his second top 10 of the season ... Rookie Matt Tifft finished ninth for his first career top 10 in his 18th Cup start.
WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Brad Keselowski and Daniel Suarez were eliminated in a six-car incident with 18 laps to go in Stage 2. It began when Harvick got a run in the tri-oval and turned Keselowski into the outside wall ... Notable drivers in the 18-car wreck included Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.
NOTABLE: The lap Justin Haley led in order to win is the only lap he’s led in Cup. The last driver to win a race with only one career lap led was Brad Keselowski at Talladega in 2009 ... Haley is the 20th driver to earn his first Cup Series win at Daytona.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They keep on asking you how you feel and I can’t do anything about it. If we go racing, we go racing. If it rains out, it rains out and we can’t do anything about it. At the end of the day, I was just waiting.” - Justin Haley
WHAT’S NEXT: Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on July 13 on NBCSN
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