Last summer, Justin Haley surprised the racing world when he won the rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway in just his third NASCAR Cup Series start. On Friday, Haley announced his return to the superspeedway and the premier series, this time with his Xfinity Series team Kaulig Racing as the newcomer to Cup racing as they will attempt February’s Daytona 500. Haley will drive the #16 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
“I am super excited to attempt not only our first NASCAR Cup Series race, but our first Daytona 500! To be competing at the World Center of Racing on the main stage is incredible, especially for our team that began just four years ago,” team owner Matt Kaulig stated. “I have all the confidence in the world that Justin Haley will make everyone at Kaulig Racing proud and truly let everyone know that Kaulig Racing is here to compete.”
Haley joined Kaulig Racing for the 2019 Xfinity season. As a rookie, he qualified for the playoffs but finished twelfth in points; he had twenty top-ten finishes with a best run of second in the Daytona July race. Said race, which took place the day before Haley’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 win, saw Kaulig sweep the top two positions with Ross Chastain leading the way; team-mate A.J. Allmendinger initially finished third before being disqualified.
The twenty-year-old Haley has an odd history with Daytona’s July race weekend. Before his Xfinity runner-up finish and Cup win in 2019, he nearly won the 2018 Xfinity race in just his second series start when he passed leader Kyle Larson coming to the finish. However, the winning move was done below the double-yellow line, an illegal move that relegated him to eighteenth.
At the Cup level, Haley joined Spire Motorsports for his premier series début at Daytona’s sister restrictor plate track Talladega Superspeedway in April 2019. After finishing thirty-second there and thirty-fourth at Sonoma Raceway, he capitalised on a major wreck and the arrival of thunderstorms to win the Coke Zero Sugar 400 for his and Spire’s first Cup victories.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles, who sponsored Haley’s 400-winning car, will return for the 500.
“I am eager to try and qualify for the Daytona 500,” Haley said. “It is an honor for me to compete for a starting spot in Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR Cup Series race. The F.O.E. has been with me since 2016. The Eagles were on my car when I won in July at Daytona, so it’s a great fit for them to be back on my car as we try to lock ourselves into the Daytona 500.”
Kaulig Racing was formed in 2016, with Chastain and Allmendinger scoring the team’s first two victories during the 2019 season. Allmendinger, whose five-race stint with the organisation was a rather bizarre one as he was disqualified in his first two races, ended with a win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. In 2020, Chastain will race full-time with Kaulig as Haley’s partner. The two will be joined by Allmendinger for the Xfinity season opener, scheduled for the day before the Daytona 500.
“Kaulig Racing has made continuous strides to be competitive in the Xfinity Series in the past few years,” Kaulig president Chris Rice added. “In 2018, we fielded two cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then in 2019, we not only fielded two cars for multiple races, but we added a third entry at Daytona in July and got our first win with Ross Chastain. As we continue to grow, I feel it is time to go to Daytona and compete in the Cup Series.”