By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Through the oil, dirt and ripped sheet metal in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard stood Justin Haley with an improbable top-10 finish for Spire Motorsports.
Breaking gold together in July 2019 with their first Cup Series victory at Daytona, the pair of Haley and Spire hit another high mark at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an eighth-place result.
“We’ve gone through [the struggles] all year and have been patient,” Haley told Kickin’ The Tires Sunday. “We’ve given each race what we could, we’re quite underfunded on the No. 77 so it’s been tough.”
Currently in Haley’s first heavy Cup schedule in 2021 — in partnership with his third full-time Xfinity Series season — it has been a year of hardships, as the No. 77 Chevrolet has finished no higher than 24th in 18 starts prior to Sunday.
However, following a string of late-race driver DNFs and wild accidents — one of which Haley was involved in, spinning off track with minor damage on lap 79 — the Indiana native capitalized and survived to the checkered flag.
The result was his first top-10 finish since his win at Daytona in 2019. Additionally, Haley earned points in Sunday’s two stages, finishing eighth and sixth, respectively.
— Justin Haley (@Justin_Haley_) August 15, 2021
“We’ve stayed with it all year,” he said. “The thing is that we don’t have the engine that most people do. Or the downforce. This track is sort of like a short track, low grip. You can really manage it and do a lot of set-up stuff. I think we really exceed at the short tracks and the road courses.
“To come to my home track and run top 10 in my first Cup race is pretty cool. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one for a lot of reasons.”
The late-race chaos steamed from a defunct curb in the track’s sixth corner, benefiting Haley to advance up the order. And though it ed to criticism of the track’s place on the schedule, Haley believes improvements will be made for Year No. 2, similar to that of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
“You can’t see anything, nothing at all,” he said of Turn 6. “We all had issues with it at some point. It’s like the first year at the Roval, it’s almost so fast that you can go two-by-two… but it either needs to be a lot slower or a lot faster and take [the curbs] all out. The Roval, the first year was disastrous and then we changed it up and it was better.”
Haley’s Xfinity Series teammate AJ Allmendinger scored the win on Sunday, his first Cup win in seven years and the first-ever Cup win for team owner Matt Kaulig.
“That is awesome for them. I’m proud of Kaulig Racing,” he said. “Obviously, getting in that car next year is going to be pretty cool.”
— Justin Haley (@Justin_Haley_) August 16, 2021