In July 2019, Justin Haley and Spire Motorsports pulled off the upset win of the NASCAR Cup Series season when they won a rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. On Sunday, they hope to do it again.
On Thursday, Spire announced Haley will return to the team and pilot the #77 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE in Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. It will be Haley’s fifth career Cup start and second of the season.
“I’m beyond excited to get back behind the wheel of the Spire Motorsports 77 this weekend at Talladega,” Haley said in a team statement. “[Crew chief] Peter (Sospenzo) and the whole team at Spire have been behind me since day one, and I’m so fortunate to get the call to come back and drive for them. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off last summer in Daytona.”
Haley currently races full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, his second full season in the series with Kaulig Racing, and sits fifth in points after finishing tenth in the playoff opener at Las Vegas; he has seventeen top tens. The 21-year-old has become a solid superspeedway racer; in addition to his Daytona Cup win, he controversially lost the 2018 Xfinity July race there after making the winning pass below the double yellow line. He rebounded two years later when he won his maiden Xfinity race in June at Talladega to become the thirty-second driver to win a race in all three NASCAR national series (Cup, Xfinity, Truck), followed by redemption at Daytona in August when he slipped by a last-lap wreck involving his team-mates for the victory.
“Justin Haley is one of the savviest superspeedway racers in the sport and his pedigree at Talladega and Daytona speaks for itself,” Spire co-owner T.J. Puchyr commented. “Justin helped put Spire Motorsports on the map when he and Peter Sospenzo won at NASCAR’s highest level a little over a year ago at Daytona. We’re thrilled to have him behind the wheel of the Parts Plus Chevrolet this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. He has an incredibly bright future and we’re proud to be part of it.”
Talladega was also the site of Haley’s Cup début in spring 2019 with Spire, where he finished thirty-second after being collected in a late wreck. His second premier series start on a superspeedway was the Daytona win, while his third was the 2020 Daytona 500 in Kaulig’s maiden Cup start where he was caught in another crash but finished thirteenth. Although the 500 was Haley’s lone Cup points race, he rejoined Spire in July for the NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol, where he finished fourteenth.
Can lightning strike twice for the Haley/Spire tandem? Maybe not literally with just a ten percent chance of rain forecasted on Sunday (though stranger things have happened in 2020; many races during the spring and summer were delayed for weather reasons), but anything goes at Talladega.
Spire’s #77, which began racing in 2019 and will have a partner in 2021, has been piloted by nine different drivers in 2020 besides Haley: Ross Chastain (some races in partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing), Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley, Garrett Smithley, B.J. McLeod, James Davison, Josh Bilicki, Joey Gase, and Stanton Barrett. The #77 is thirty-third in owners’ points with a best finish of sixteenth at the Daytona August race with Chastain.