By: Mitchell Breuer
Heading into the NASCAR Xfiinty Series’ season finale at Phoenix Raceway, it seems like the Championship 4 is built of a ‘big three’.
Chase Briscoe, who has won a series-high nine races this year. Austin Cindric has seemed to be Briscoe’s biggest challenger and won the regular season championship. And, Justin Allgaier, the veteran who has had success at Phoenix before and, is driving with a team that has is very used to winning championships in JR Motorsports.
Without a doubt they are favorites to win the championship Saturday, but there is another driver in the mix – Justin Haley. With a smaller team in Kaulig Racing, and less success on track outsides of superspeedways, it is easy to see why many views him as an underdog, but this is not shaking his confidence.
“I feel like we are very capable,” Haley said. “When you look back at spring results, we were the highest finishing of the Championship 4 drivers in that race. It doesn’t mean much but, I feel like our short track program has improved quite a bit since then.”
Looking back at the spring results, Haley finished fifth, but did not lead laps like Allgaier and Cindric. Despite the solid performance, his team will elect to bring a different car this weekend, putting the ride that scored them a second earlier in the playoffs.
When elaborating on this decision, Haley’s current confidence as grown in believing their short track program has improved throughout the season.
“We’ve been tweaking on that thing for a while now,” Haley said. “I feel like our shot is very good, a lot of people are counting us out but, I don’t feel like that is the case at all. Our short track program is great. We have at least been getting better at Phoenix and I’m looking forward to it.”
The feeling of being an underdog is not something Haley is not already accustomed to, saying it is something he has dealt with his entire career. In fact, we have seen him embrace the “dark horse” moniker this season, as he had the phrase on his nameplate when won at Talladega Superspeedway for a second time.
“I have read so many comments about how ‘Justin Haley isn’t deserving of being in the final four;’ what makes me not deserving?” Haley said. “What goes through someone’s mind to say that I have not put out just as much hard work and worked long hours and cried long hours over the nights trying to figure out why we are tenth? Saying that is part of it but, it kind of drives me. I’ve always been that way my whole career, and a lot of people have always doubted me and, a lot of people in the industry have doubted me.”
While others might do so, Haley will once again bet on himself this weekend, something that he says has worked throughout his young career. The big question though is, will the gamble pay off like it has in the past?
Categories: NASCAR Xfinity Series