It wound up being a career-best night to date for Justin Haley in Friday’s GoBowling 250 at Richmond Raceway, but the Kaulig Racing driver fell one spot short of victory lane.
He was passed by eventual winner Justin Allgaier with 28 laps to go and couldn’t run him down. However, Haley’s runner-up result marks his best finish on anything other than a superspeedway or road course in his Xfinity Series career.
“No complaints,” Haley said post-race. “We saved, we did it right. Car just fell off a little too much, got a little tight from that front end damage. Positive day for sure.”
Haley didn’t put up a huge fight with the No. 7 and was focused more on saving his tires, as his team repeatedly told him to do so.
“I kind of let him go,” Haley said, who led twice for 51 laps total. “I thought he went too early, to be honest with you. He was way more sideways, but they had something underneath their car that allowed it to be sideways and have a little bit of grip. We ain’t got that, so we’ll try to find it for tomorrow for sure.
“I thought maybe a few more laps, I could have gotten to him because he was really sideways towards the end. He honestly just timed it perfectly, and lapped traffic was not ideal until the end. But I think we were faster, just didn’t play our cards right.”
Crew chief Alex Yontz, who has been atop the pit box for both of Haley’s victories this season at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway, has elevated Haley’s performance on short tracks. The Winimac, Ind. native admittedly has struggled on them in his development throughout the ranks.
“I was never really good on short tracks,” he said. “We showed up to Richmond with [Yontz] last year and we were so fast. We look forward to going to short tracks now. Bristol we were in position before [Riley] Herbst wrecked us.
“These short tracks, whatever Alex Yontz is doing, I applaud the guy. I mean he’s absolutely amazing when it comes to setting up these short tracks, he has his whole life […] I drive it every week and I drive it to the best of its ability. Tonight, it was a first/second place car and that’s where we ran. Just depends on the week, but this is a good car.”
Haley called out the social media haters post-race, hoping that his run could silence some of those critics.
A message to the haters, courtesy of @Justin_Haley_. 🤫
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) September 12, 2020
“As long as I can go out and prove that I’m worthy, which I think I did tonight maybe, I’m sure they’ll still say something, but it is what it is.”
Still, Haley gave credit to Yontz for setting up a car he called the best of his career, calling it “effortless” at some points throughout the 250-lap event.
“The car was just extremely fast,” he said. “It’s rare that you get a car that fast […] I feel like we were still the best car at the end lap time wise, from what I heard. We just didn’t play our cards right.
“When you get a car that good, you race it every weekend and you know what it’s about, it’s just so good. It’s not every weekend you’re lapping [Chase Briscoe] or beating Kyle Busch in a [Joe Gibbs Racing] car at Richmond. Just a phenomenal car. Like I said, I’m just the driver, but they really hit on it this week. I applaud the Kaulig guys for that.”
The Xfinity Series turns around for the second leg of its doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. EST on NBCSN.