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NASCAR weekend recap: Justin Haley, Spire Motorsports score biggest upset in NASCAR history

Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Images

NASCAR weekend recap: Justin Haley, Spire Motorsports score biggest upset in NASCAR history

Whenever NASCAR hits the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, susprise winners are a definite possibility. Playoff spots for multiple drivers are up for grabs that realistically aren't at other venues and first-time winners aren't out of the ordinary.

But NOBODY expected what happened on Sunday afternoon.

Here's what went down this weekend in the racing world.

Did That Really Happen?

The year is 2019 and Justin Haley is now a Monster Energy Cup Series winner.

No, that's not a typo. And the featured image isn't photoshopped. Spire Motorsports and the 20-year-old Haley pulled off the biggest upset in NASCAR history, winning the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. How?

Following "The Big One" with 41 laps to go, cleanup ensued with over half the field out of contention for the win. With 34 laps to go, NASCAR gave the "one to go" signal. In the lead, Kurt Busch was called to pit road by crew chief Matt McCall for service, handing the lead over to Haley.

Shortly thereafter, lightning strikes began in the eight-mile vicinity of DIS, forcing 30-minute delays for each strike. After over two hours of delays (and much back and forth on twitter), NASCAR called the race, handing the win to Haley.

Per the AP, Haley's odds pre-race of winning were 500/1. The World Center of Racing seems to write its own storylines more times than not. But this one was as unprecedented as it gets.

A 20-year-old from Winamac, Indiana in his third Cup Series start, for a backmarker, start-and-park team in its first full-time chartered season that, frankly, hasn't and doesn't have any plans to realistically compete for race wins (which is also a bad look for the sport, but back to the point) just won at the most famous track in NASCAR. How about that?

Mother Nature Wrecks Havoc

Justin Haley may have been the only one leaving Daytona Beach thanking Mother Nature for her actions all weekend long.

Rain forced the cancelation of multiple practice and qualifying sessions over the weekend. After all, it is Daytona in July, right?

Precipitation remained in the area all day Saturday, eventually forcing NASCAR to postpone the Coke Zero Sugar 400 to Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. EST. The race began without issue, but with more thundertorms approaching, it quickly became a race to halfway.

Being a 2.5-mile track and it taking multiple hours to dry the surface properly, one large rain shower would most likely mean the premature end of the race. But before the rains came, lighting struck, forcing delays upon delays. After waiting over two hours, NASCAR called the race at 5:30 p.m. EST, giving Haley and Spire the improbable victory.

It's not the first time a surprise winner has resulted from a rain-shortened event, and it won't be the last. Most recently, Chris Buescher and Front Row Motorsports waited out the fog at Pocono Raceway to earn a playoff spot in 2016. But no victory has ever had these circumstances. The drivers third start, a new team not even trying to win. Almost like an accident.

But a win is a win is a win, seven days to Sunday. Nobody can take that away from Haley and the No. 77 team. But they have Mother Nature to thank for giving them the chance.

Not Lifting

Brad Keselowski was the story of the weekend early on, as a practice incident led him to declare he "(wasn't) lifting" while drafting in packs.

Well, that came back to bite him and a handful of other drivers during the race. A product of superspeedway racing is close quarters, high speed racing resulting in blocking. And in some cases, drivers not lifting.

Early on, Keselowski showed he meant business.

But later on, his race ended early due to one of his competitors not lifting.

And then, the REALLY big one...

Those wrecks (specifically the final one) withered down the field enough to leave Haley as the leader once everything cycled out and the lightning came (as mentioned above). He was one of the few that squeaked his way through unscathed.


Next weekend, NASCAR travels to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400, scheduled to go green on Saturday evening (July 13) at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

11.27.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Phil de Picciotto, Founder and President of Octagon


11.27.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Phil de Picciotto, Founder and President of Octagon

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with  Founder and President of Octagon Phil de Picciotto and takes you through the biggest sports business stories of the week.


1. Minor League Baseball has announced the continued long-term commitment to its U.S. Hispanic fans and communities with the return of the 2020 Copa de la Diversion campaign and event series. Next season, each of the 92 participating MiLB teams covering 34 U.S. states will transform its on-field brand into a culturally-relevant Hispanic persona, representing an extension of the team’s and community’s identity. MiLB’s Copa-specific website features each team’s unique identity, including the story behind its Hispanic on-field persona, and links for fans to purchase available apparel for select Copa teams. As the New York Times noted, “the local embrace of a professional baseball team is ingrained in American culture.” MiLB performs critical community outreach through programs such as building youth sports facilities and sponsoring creative initiatives in schools. As American communities continue to become more diverse, events like the Copa de la Diversion campaign only serve to cement MiLB’s role as a communal centerpiece across the nation.

2. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan confirmed that he has signed a long-term contract extension. Whan is “completing his tenth year as the LPGA’s leader, the longest tenure of any commissioner in tour history,” according to Golf Channel. During his tenure, Whan has “rebuilt the LPGA with a healthy, diversified foundation, with 33 events” and more than $70 million in total prize money.” When Whan was named LPGA Commissioner, the organization had only 23 events on the 2011 schedule in his first year. “Ten years ago, I’m not sure many of us would have been bold enough to predict where we are our today,” he wrote in an update to members. “Events like the KPMG Women’s PGA, Race to the CME Globe, UL International Crown and Founders Cup weren’t even an idea back then. In fact, 19 of the 33 official events on the 2020 LPGA Tour Schedule weren’t on the LPGA Tour just 10 years ago! Now we have an official team event, five strong majors, multiple events played with men, exciting season-long competitions, events staged in 12 different regions of the world, and TV coverage in over 160 countries.” Well done, Mike – we are proud to call you a friend.

3. The National Lacrosse League’s Alterna Cup begins Friday. On November 29, the National Lacrosse League will usher in a brand-new season-long competition among all five Canadian clubs. Calgary, Halifax, Saskatchewan, Toronto, and Vancouver will be competing for the inaugural Alterna Cup. This Cup was created in partnership with Alterna Savings and Alterna Bank (Alterna), who will be the exclusive banking partner of the NLL in Canada this season. To capture the Cup, Canadian teams will be competing in head-to-head matchups throughout the NLL regular season. To get the action started, the Calgary Roughnecks will pay a visit to the Vancouver Warriors next Friday, November 29 at 10:00 pm ET. Save a little room for lacrosse after you gorge on turkey and football.

4. The 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is heading to Los Angeles where, for the first time, the MLS All-Stars will face the Liga MX All-Stars on July 29 at Banc of California Stadium. The match will be broadcast on ESPN and Univision networks in the U.S., TSN, and TVA Sports in Canada, as well as on ESPN throughout Mexico and Latin America. “We are so pleased to bring the 2020 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target to Los Angeles, one of the great soccer markets in North America,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement. “As we celebrate our 25th season, we wanted to deliver a unique and unprecedented format for our annual All-Star Game. Our first ever game between the best of MLS and Liga MX’s top players is the perfect way to build on the growing relationship between the two top soccer leagues in the region.” The MLS All-Star Game will unfold in the same timeframe that SoFi Stadium, the new home of the Rams and the Chargers, will roll out inaugural concerts before it hosts its first official NFL games. Next summer, it seems, all eyes will be on LaLa Land.

5. NASCAR launches a new OTT platform with NBC Sports. The new live and on-demand streaming platform, TrackPass, will launch on the NBC Gold OTT service next month and will provide access to live motorsports events and archive footage and documentaries, including NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions, but not live races. According to Sports Pro, subscribers will have the option of watching exclusive live race coverage from the American Flat Track motorcycle series, select events from the ARCA Menards U.S. stock-car series, as well as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and live International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) events. The new TrackPass service will cost $4.99 per month or $44.99 per year, while other price offerings include series-specific sub-packages for select motorsports. Creating an OTT offering just for NASCAR fans attracts more millennial and Gen Z audiences while other companies like DAZN or ESPN+ could add them to their roster in the near future.

11.25.19 Rick Horrow interviews EVERFI Co-founder Jon Chapman


11.25.19 Rick Horrow interviews EVERFI Co-founder Jon Chapman

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with EVERFI Co-founder Jon Chapman and takes you through the biggest sports business stories of the week.


1. EverFi chants “Let’s Go Lightning.” Last Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning invited 5,000 middle schoolers from the area to practice as part of their partnership with the Future Goals program from EverFi. The NHL and NHLPA are sponsoring the program that brings hockey into the classroom to explore STEM topics through sports. Future Goals features computer modules aimed at students in third through eighth grades on various topics. “We actually tried to use math and science in our ball hockey stuff,” Vice President of Community Hockey Development Jay Feaster shared with the Tampa Bay Times. “We show angles. If you pass off the boards here, or the different angles in the openings around a goalie.” While some of the students attending the Friday practice were hockey players, EverFi‘s NHL partnership recognizes that even those who don’t play the game have a better time absorbing STEM information through the lens of the sport.

2. Japanese hoops star Rui Hachimura made history before ever stepping on an NBA court. The 6-foot-8 forward became the first player born in Japan to be drafted when the Washington Wizards selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in June. His popularity in Japan is unmatched, making him unique among this year’s NBA rookie class. Because of Hachimura’s status as a national icon in Japan, there was intense competition to land him as a sneaker endorser. Initially, seven companies presented to Hachimura, including such basketball staples as Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand and multiple China-based companies. Hachimura ultimately decided to sign with Jordan Brand, which offered a blend of proven performance products, marketing cachet around the world, and an opportunity to join a smaller stable of players within the larger Nike umbrella. Look for other major endorsements to come Hachimura’s way for brands eager to penetrate the style-forward Japanese market.


3. The NHL’s Washington Capitals owners launch Caps Gaming Brand. Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE), the owners of the Washington Capitals NHL franchise, has launched an esports division called Caps Gaming, which will host a 32-team EA Sports NHL 20 competition. The Caps Gaming Showcase, a six-versus-six ice hockey esports tournament, which will launch on Xbox One, will feature an eight-week regular-season beginning in early December, with the top 16 teams advancing to a postseason stage held in late February, competing for a $15,000 prize pool. As part of Monumental’s gaming expansion, the esports division has also signed up professional NHL gamer John Casagranda, who is also known as “JohnWayne” and joins the Caps Gaming organization as an official streamer on the Caps Gaming Twitch channel until the end of June. In addition to being 2018 NHL Stanley Cup champions, Monumental owns and operates pro sports franchises based in the U.S. capital, including the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA champion Washington Mystics. By investing heavily in esports, MSE and the Capitals have kept themselves at the forefront of innovation across the NHL and are primed to cash-in on the rise of esports.


4. Advertising and patches in esports take root: Wizards District Gaming pen NBA 2K jersey patch deal with Alarm.com. According to SportsPro, the deal sees the Alarm.com also get virtual in-game signage during Wizards District Gaming play in the NBA 2K League, deepening its relationship with MSE, which also owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Alarm.com will also receive exposure during the NBA 2K League Draft, for which the Wizards’ esports team holds the number one overall pick this season. Further, the partnership features experiential activations, including a Wizards District Gaming sponsored employee program and players appearances, as well as social media features, branded content, digital banner advertisements on the team’s website, and brand integration within Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch. Esports is the perfect place for tech-oriented agencies to advertise to appeal to fans who are always looking to upgrade their digital devices and software.


5. Sports tech and analytics company Whoop raises $55 million for its discreet wearables. Whoop, which makes a sensor-equipped and screen-free strap that continuously tracks your activities 24/7 and then provides a multitude of performance metrics and other data based on that activity, has closed a round of $55 million funding that it will use to continue expanding its business into a wider range of wearables and analytics that can be gathered around them. According to TechCrunch, the devices measure things like how much strain a workout is causing you, how you are recovering afterward, your sleep, whether training is having the desired effect, whether you are working at a level that will be less likely to cause injury, and how you are likely to perform. Looking ahead, the plan is to place the sensors into more environments than just the strap it currently makes. One notable shift Whoop has seen in the last year is that it has dropped the price of its wearable from a sizeable $500 down to free. Instead, it bundles the strap into a wider membership program that you do pay for, starting at $30/month and decreasing, depending on what you would like to measure and use the data for – and because it’s simpler than Google’s recently-acquired Fitbit, Whoop may find more success by providing simplicity in an over-inundated tech world.