By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
One week after he was sidelined, Justin Haley returned to the NASCAR Xfinity Series winning a Stage and scoring a top-10 finish.
Haley missed the race at Dover International Speedway last weekend due to COVID-19 protocols. The Kaulig Racing driver did not have the virus. However, he was exposed to someone who did have COVID-19. As a result, Zane Smith filled in for Haley. NASCAR granted the 22-year-old a waiver for the playoffs.
Missing Dover forced Haley and his Kaulig Racing team to change strategy moving forward. They place an emphasis on earning Stage points. When everyone in front of Haley pitted at the end of Stage 2 in the Pit Boss 250, he stayed on track. The strategy call earned the Winamac, IN native the Stage win and an additional 10-points.
Haley was mired deep in the field at the start of the final Stage at Circuit of the Americas. Haley spent several laps stuck behind Myatt Snider and Riley Herbst. He snuck by the duo, following NASCAR Cup Series driver Cole Custer through. When the checkered flag waved, the No. 11 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro SS was ninth.
The Xfinity Series driver explained the strategy and his plan for the rest of the regular season on Twitter.
“Good points day, that’s our plan now after last week,” explained Haley. “We need stage wins for later in the year. Restarted deep for the last stage and had top three speed for most of it. Just too much traffic. Solid ninth. Thanks Kaulig Racing.”
Good points day, that’s our plan now after last week. We need stage wins for later in the year. Restarted deep for the last stage and had Top 3 speed for most of it. Just to much traffic. Solid 9th. Thanks @KauligRacing.
— Justin Haley (@Justin_Haley_) May 22, 2021
Haley qualified sixth in the rain. He was among several that pitted during a late caution in Stage 1. Despite a one lap shootout to finish the Stage, he could not get back inside the top-10.
The ninth-place finish is the seventh top-10 finish for Haley this season and 48th of his Xfinity Series career. It’s his 81st career top-10 finish across NASCAR’s National Series.
The top-10 finish moved Haley up from eighth to seventh in the points standings. He is 62-points above the playoff cutoff held by Brandon Jones. Haley is 141-points behind leader Austin Cindric.
Featured Photo Credit: NKP / NKP Photo