Justin Haley Wins First Cup Series Race In Rain-Shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400by Camille Jones July 7, 2019 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Justin Haley earned his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory when lightning brought the rain-delayed 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 to a halt with 33 laps to go on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
The underdog competitor driving the No. 77 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports won in the team’s 18th start in the series.
“It’s absolutely a blessing,” said Haley. “It’s pretty incredible that I have so many great people around me that have given me this opportunity to come to this level and the stage that we’re performing on. Obviously Todd (Braun) and my family have done a great job but the Fraternal Order of Eagles, everyone at FOE, who has given me this opportunity with Spire Motorsports, it’s truly a blessing. I never even saw myself running a Cup race until I got a call a few months ago to do Talladega, and it’s just unreal. I don’t know how to feel.”
Lightning within eight miles of Daytona International Speedway brought out the red flag for a 30-minute countdown to ensure the safety of those at the track. Unfortunately, rain began to fall, which delayed the restart following the completion of waiting for 30 minutes. Just when the clock appeared to be winding down, lightning struck once again, followed by a downpour. With significant rain building on the radar, NASCAR made the call to end the race.
Haley, a competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, has only made three starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Haley’s team, Spire Motorsports, operates on a limited budget and is not in contention to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
The wild turn of events came on lap 120, when Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer made contact while battling for the lead. Dillon was sent spinning through the field, causing a massive collision with 17 cars being collected and sustaining significant damage.
Following the crash, Dillon said, “Originally, off of turn four, I thought me and the 9 (Chase Elliott) would be able to get by the 11 (Denny Hamlin). But the 9 wasn’t clear. I really thought it was urgent with the lighting and the rain coming. So I jumped up there and had a good push from the 14 (Clint Bowyer) and my plan as soon as I cleared the 11 was to cut left and get down again to get with my Chevy teammates. It’s really unfortunate because I had a really fast American Ethanol Chevy.”
Bowyer said, “I guess he didn’t want me to pass him. I don’t know. I got under him and he blocked, and we got together, I got off of him – moved down and got off of him – and here he comes back down even more and just finally wrecked us all. That’s just part of racing like this.”
When the cars came around for the restart, the field was given the ‘one to go’ sign by NASCAR. Kurt Busch, the leader, pulled into pit road with several cars, giving up the lead position. Once he hit pit road, lightning struck, bringing out the red flag with Haley in the lead. The race did not restart following this red flag.
William Byron claimed the second position on Sunday in a backup car following an incident in practice on Thursday. Jimmie Johnson finished in third. Ty Dillon finished fourth, followed by Ryan Newman in fifth.
Corey LaJoie took the sixth-place result, followed by Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Tifft and Kurt Busch completed the top-10 in the finishing order.
There were six caution flags for a total of 25 laps under caution on Sunday. Joey Logano won Stage 1, followed by Austin Dillon winning Stage 2.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to competition next weekend at Kentucky Speedway. The Quaker State 400 will be found on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images