Stage One: Starting from the 10th position Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, Justin Haley gained a couple of positions early on. However, as the green flag run ensued, he dropped back to ninth reporting that his Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy was just too tight. With the caution coming out on lap 29, crew chief Kevin Bellicourt called the No. 24 down pit road for two right side tires, one can of fuel and a chassis adjustment to try to loosen Haley’s Chevrolet Silverado up. Restarting 14th with seven laps to go in Stage One, Haley was able to race his way within the top-10, finishing the stage in the eighth position. After pitting just a few laps earlier, Haley remained on track under the stage break, lining him up second for the start of Stage Two.
Stage Two: Firing off too free on the restart, Haley fell back to the fifth position, but as the run continued he fell back to seventh still fighting an ill-handling Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet. With only five laps remaining in Stage Two, the caution came out and varying pit strategy once again had Haley restarting third after electing not to pit. With a one-lap shootout to the stage break, Haley was able to maintain his position and finish Stage Two in third place. Coming to pit road for four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment for the No. 24, Haley rejoined the field in the 12th position for the start of the Final Stage after a few of the leaders elected not to pit.
Final Stage: Haley quickly began fighting his way through traffic, making his way up to the sixth position before the caution came out on lap 108. Still not entirely happy with his Chevrolet Silverado’s handling, Haley came to pit road under the caution for two tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment but was told to save as much fuel as possible in case the race were to go green for the remaining laps. Restarting fifth on lap 114, Haley got a great run going into Turn One, allowing himself to be in position to grab the race lead going down the backstretch. Leading until lap 116, when teammate Johnny Sauter took over the top spot, Haley went into fuel saving mode, drafting off the No. 21 and following in his tracks. As the laps continued to wind down, Haley remained within striking distance of Sauter until the caution came out on lap 151. Bellicourt elected not to bring the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevy down pit road but reminded his driver to continue to save fuel. Still having issues firing off on restarts, Haley fell back to third but had one more shot at the win as the caution came out on lap 160, setting up a two-lap sprint to the end. When the field went back green, Haley found himself in a three-way battle for the lead, ultimately crossing the finish line in third-place, a track-best finish for the 19-year-old.
– Friday night’s third-place finish is Haley’s best NCWTS finish at Texas Motor Speedway. It is also his second top-five and third top-10 finish in three starts there, never finishing worse than sixth at the 1.5-mile track.
– Haley has three top-three finishes in the 2018 NCWTS season after eight races.
– After his third-place finish in the “Lone Star State”, Haley is still eighth in the NCWTS driver point standings, 34 points above The Playoff cut line.
“We really lacked raw speed today, which isn’t really where we’ve been this season, usually we’ve been in the top-five in overall raw speed. Qualifying 10th was a little bit of a struggle, trying to play track position and get up to the front. We just managed our tires and fuel right, it just came down to those final restarts. I did everything I could to push Johnny (Sauter) out of the way to try get by him for our first win, but overall it was just a really good showing for the No. 24 Fraternal Order of Eagles team and GMS Racing. Johnny is good and I love being his teammate, I’m just tired of chasing him. I guess I need to pick his brain a bit more to outrun him.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!