By: Ashley McCubbin
When Justin Haley was originally looking to move into the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he knew of the success capable with the likes of JR Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, and more. Another option, though, was Kaulig Racing, who at the time only had a single top-five finish.
“I went over there and talked to Chris Rice, he was the first Xfinity team I met with, and I just liked the vibe, small atmosphere that Kaulig had,” Justin Haley recalled for NEWS FROM THE PITS.
The pair of seasons that have followed, now entering his third with Kaulig Racing, have proven he made the right decision. Haley helped developed the team into an organization that he qualified for the Championship 4 with in 2020, scoring three victories along the way – as well as a couple wins for teammate A.J. Allmendinger.
“Just to be a part of the growth and know I had something to do with it, at least a small part of it and I think Aj says the same thing, it means so much more to a driver when we all work together and build as one,” he commented. “Knowing that I had a part in taking this team that was realistically 10th to 12th place team at the time and going up to winning races and making the final four – me as a driver, it proves to myself that I was competitive and with Kaulig Racing, we could build a team.”
As Kaulig Racing begins their journey into the NASCAR Cup Series, it seems Haley is taking the same route in helping develop a team, but with a different organization this time around. He was one of their first drivers, scoring a victory at Daytona International Speedway in 2019, and now helping them continue to develop the rest of their program away from the superspeedways.
“Doing these races with Spire when I can is pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m pretty committed over at Spire through the 2021 season and helping them build and just helping them all I can.”
Building seems to be the key for Spire in 2021 as they expand to two cars with Corey Lajoie full-time in the No. 7 alongside the No. 77 entry. Another big step was bringing in veteran Cup Series crew chief and NBC TV Analyst Steve LeTarte as a motorsports consultant.
“Steve’s great,” Haley said. “I never met him before this year – I think I did a few zoom calls with him on NBC last year. But he’s kind of like Chris Rice in the sense in leading the team, consultant there at Spire. He has so much energy and I think that’s what a leader of a racing organization needs. Steve has believed in me from day one, very thorough with me, and where we’re at as a team.
“We’re not just going to blaze into the Cup Series and start winning races, or start doing top-fives – he says brick by brick. I translate it back to what we did at Kaulig Racing, a race team is built around the people that you hire. I think Steve has done a great job going out and finding good people, working with Kevin Bellicourt – my truck crew chief, one of my best friends over the past five years.”
Over the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign, the pair had a lot of success with three trips to victory lane. LeTarte just did not bring in Bellicourt alone, either, as he brought in five other crew guys whom were partnered with the duo at the time.
The sport is always talking about the young drivers to watch and focusing on those who make the moves at the front of the field. However, don’t take your eyes off Haley and Spire Motorsports as you may miss the progress in building everything together step-by-step.