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Justin Haley (Photo: NKP)

Truckin’ Thursday: Justin Haley, the First-Time Winner Shouldnʻt Surprise You

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

Haley A Star On The Rise

Justin Haley picked up his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park. Interestingly enough, Haley is the first driver to earn their initial Truck win at the 1.25 mile oval in Madison, Ill. Despite being only 19 years old, Haley is merely continuing the success he began while driving on the K&N Pro Series East tour.

Haley began his NASCAR career at 15 and performed well right out of the gate. In 31 career K&N East starts, he finished in the top 10 25 times, which included a stellar 2016 season. That year, Haley won two times and finished in the top ten in all 14 events. His consistency earned Haley the series championship. Making that accomplishment even more remarkable was the level of the competition, as Haley drove against future Trucks drivers like Noah Gragson, Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton.

His rookie year in Trucks, 2017, was full of moments highlighting his potential as a racer. He finished in the top five three times in his GMS Racing Chevrolet and earned his first career pole position last fall at Texas Motor Speedway. This year has been even better with a runner-up finish at Daytona International Speedway and a pair of thirds in the first nine races.

Haley may be a first-time winner, but it won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have been watching him.

Finley Surprising At Gateway 

Chad Finley started the race at Gateway in 20th position with his family-owned team. Making just his third start in Trucks, few took notice of the DeWitt, Mich. native prior to the race. But when Finley crossed the line in sixth, plenty of people took notice.

The late model standout has limited NASCAR touring series experience. He has only four K&N Pro Series East starts, and he finished 21st in each of his first two Truck events. Finley does have 20 ARCA races under his belt, earning a victory in April 2017 at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Finley staged a stirring battle with Kyle Weatherman and was able to come out on top.

Finley, who at 26 is hardly a spring chicken in the racing world, harkens back to a time where racers who specialize at a certain track would jump in with the big touring series whenever they were in town. Finley has turned plenty of laps at Nashville, and his experience there gave him a leg up on the competition. The fast straightaways and tight turns at Gateway seemed to suit Finley quite well. When we will see Finley behind the wheel of a truck remains to be seen, but chances are he’ll be on a few more radars next time.

Truckin Tidbits

Kevin Donahue made just his 10th career start this weekend with his small Mittler Bros Motorsports team. Prior to the race at Gateway, he had only finished two of them, and his best result was 20th. Donahue brought the No. 63 truck home in 12th place in what had to feel like a victory for both himself and the organization.

Iowa winner Brett Moffitt needed a sponsor for his Hattori Racing Enterprises team to be able to continue. With a pair of victories, it seemed almost unconscionable that a team with a driver virtually locked into the playoffs might have to shut down due to lack of sponsorship. Fortunately, it appears that won’t be the case. The team will be sponsored at Chicagoland Speedway by Fr8 Auctions.

Speaking of Chicagoland, this will be the second track on the 2018 schedule where Ford is chasing its first win. The Blue Oval brigade has yet to win at the 1.5-mile oval, as well as Iowa Speedway and Eldora Speedway.

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About Frank Velat

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Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.