By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
From last to nearly first.
Justin Haley, who crashed his primary car Saturday in practice, used a clever strategy play to secure himself and Kaulig Racing up front late in Sunday’s Grant Park 220 from the Chicago Street Circuit.
Only the most experienced street racer in the field, Shane van Gisbergen, was in his way. The two battled for the top spot in the final five laps of the NASCAR Cup Series race, and though a caution gave Haley one last shot in an overtime finish, the Kiwi Gisbergen won and the American Haley finished second.
“It was tough,” Haley said. “I put it in the tire barrier yesterday and we stayed up all night. I stayed with the guys through the rain, re-wrapped this thing, put put a new body on it.
“I was really struggling under the braking zones. I felt like I could get off the corners better than anyone.”
Haley knew his No. 31 had the target on his back, running with far older tires than Gisbergen and company.
“I mean, what are you going to do? He had 16-lap fresher tires,” he said.
Far from the playoff bubble at the halfway point of 2023, a victory would have secured his spot in the postseason. Still, the runner-up finish was Haley’s first top five of the year and his best result since his lone win back in the summer of 2019.
“Obviously, congrats to Project 91. It sucks where we are right now… we are not in position to win every week,” he said. “Coming that close is not what you want.
“I felt I put us behind yesterday putting it in the tire barrier and from there it kinda trickles. I’m just really proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. What an awesome event, I can’t wait to come back next year.
“And what is there to be disappointed about? We’ll go to Atlanta next week and try our best.”