18-year-old Justin Haley is having a solid rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, currently riding a streak of four straight top-10 finishes, highlighted by a season-best sixth at Texas Motor Speedway.
The GMS Racing driver took some time to speak with Popular Speed’s Ashley McCubbin about his thoughts on the year so far.
POPULAR SPEED: How would you characterize your season so far?
JUSTIN HALEY: We struggled at first – me and my crew chief (Kevin Bellicourt); it was a new pairing, so we had to get used to each other. So NASCAR doesn’t let us test a lot anymore so it’s not like we could go out and test, and work with each other; we just dove in head first. I think as time has gone on, we’ve gotten better together and working really well now, and run well good. I think we just need a little bit more out of the truck and keep learning each week to continue improving.
PS: Where do you feel your team needs to improve?
JH: I feel like they’re set-up really well, but we just have to keep pushing more. We have very good horsepower with Hendrick (Motorsports) and bodies, so it’s just continuing to get better. Through continuing to spend time in the wind tunnel, and stuff like that – any little thing we can attack, because in the long run, every little thing adds up into one more big speed improvement. I think we’re very close. We’re obviously very fast, but we need a little bit more to go up there and run with the fast guys.
PS: What’s been the biggest surprise for you as a rookie?
JH: I think it’s been the air – that and how aggressive everybody runs in the truck series. Like, the K&N was pretty mellow and a lot of short track racing. Then you move up to big tracks, and they talk about air all the time. People can tell you and warn you all the wise, but till you feel it and how the air moves the truck around and how little control you have of it, it’s pretty different. So getting used to that on the mile and halves have been something that I am still working on to this day, and will be awhile. But yeah, that and restarts are crazy because they’re the only time to gain track position as once we get single file, you can’t pass due to the aero. You have to be on each restart.
PS: Are there any tracks coming up that you are excited for more so than others?
JH: I feel like I go into every weekend confident, unless it’s a mile and a half. Obviously, I’m a road course racer so obviously going to Canada here is going to help. Then I grew up racing dirt, so maybe I’ll have a chance at Eldora. But you know, there’s tracks here and there that I favor over other tracks. Like, I feel I’m really good at Phoenix; we’ve always run really good there. So you know, I feel every week we’ll be alright.
PS: So with running on dirt growing up, what was it like transitioning to asphalt?
JH: It wasn’t really that bad because I started my career in quarter midgets on asphalt, and then kind of did some sprint car stuff. Then while I was doing sprint car stuff, I was also doing stock car stuff. So it wasn’t like I ever ran dirt for a long period of time without asphalt. It really that doesn’t big a change.
But I feel like it’s helped me because I can go on dirt on a Wednesday, and then come back and be alright on asphalt. So it’s just knowing the limits and having the control of the car or truck.
PS: Which one of your GMS teammates have you leaned on the most for advice?
JH: I have leaned on Johnny (Sauter), more than I probably should have. I probably bug him too much; he’s probably getting mad at me. But obviously, he’s doing this for longer than I’ve been alive. So I go over there and he’s been an open book with me. He’ll shoot me straight and tell me if I’m doing it right, or if I’m completely not doing it right at all. I’ve enjoyed working with Johnny and Kaz (Grala) over here in the truck series, and Spencer (Gallagher) is a lot of help too.
I like how GMS is. It’s pretty open book. Everybody shares set-ups and everything is open book, so you can always lean on someone. It’s very friendly, almost like a family.
Haley will look to keep the momentum rolling when the truck series heads to Kentucky Speedway on July 6.
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