Column By: LEE SPENCER / NASCAR – 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 sixth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. 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.”
Seavey looks to follow Larson and Bell’s path to NASCAR’s top tiers
Logan Seavey will make his NASCAR debut in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway on July 18.
The 21-year-old Columbus, Indiana, native will pilot the No. 51 Mobil 1 Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports under the direction of crew chief Mike Hillman Jr.
Seavey, the 2017 POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series champion, comes from the same fertile farm club – Keith Kunz Motorsports – that produced Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell under the Toyota Racing Development banner.
“Running the Truck Series race at Eldora for Kyle Busch Motorsports is the chance of a lifetime and I can’t thank everyone at Mobil 1, Toyota and TRD enough for having the confidence to put me in this position,” Seavey said. “Not many people get the chance to run a stock car on dirt and it’s definitely going to be a big challenge racing something so much heavier than what I’m used to.
“Hopefully, I’ll have a little bit of an advantage just knowing what dirt racing is like and how the dirt changes and I’ve already leaned on Christopher for some advice.”
Seavey, who currently leads the midget standings, has never raced at the half-mile dirt track in Rossburg, Ohio. However, in the five previous Dirt Derby’s at Eldora, KBM trucks have won twice. Bubba Wallace won the second truck race at the Big E in 2014 and Bell won the following year.
“I’ve been able to get Mobil 1 to Victory Lane a few times in my Midget this year and hopefully I can do it again in the Truck Series to reward them for their support of not only myself, but the entire Toyota Racing Development program.”
Rhodes tries to turn his season around at Kentucky
Ben Rhodes has endured his share of bad luck lately.
When his engine soured at Kansas Speedway, his disappointment was compounded by wrecking his street truck leaving the track.
It’s just the little things that have bitten the No. 27 ThorSport Racing Ford.
And although Rhodes raced to a second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in his last truck start, a win would go a long way for the 21-year-old Louisville native.
“As a team, we’re a lot better off,” said Rhodes, who is currently eighth in the standings. “The morale has been down, but that’s somewhat out of our control. But no one has given up. They’ve been working a crazy amount of hours – more hours than anyone else at ThorSport. They’re staying and working through the night. They’re working through the holidays.
“I hate to see that but I can’t fix it. We need the bad stuff to quit happening. As a whole, morale has been down but Chicagoland gave them the shot in the arm they needed. They’re back to where they need to be. Our trucks have been phenomenal all season long. I wouldn’t change anything on the team. But it would be nice to get our fleet built back up because of Iowa, Gateway – bad things that put us behind with our trucks. But that’s racing. It happens. We just need to focus forward.”
Communication has been key for Rhodes and crew chief Eddie Troconis. Rhodes believes their rapport has improved over last year.
“The first year I didn’t do a good job of tuning him out when I needed to,” Rhodes said. “The second year, I’ve really found my edge with him. I know when he goes crazy on the radio – and almost starts speaking Spanish – I just turn it down a little bit and keep doing my thing.
“He’s the emotional one on the team. He’s the spitfire. I’m more easy-going.”