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NASCAR Cup: Justin Haley takes upset win at Daytona

during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series RINNAI 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 22, 2019 in Hampton, Georgia.

By AMANDA VINCENT

Justin Haley had the weekend of his life at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. After finishing runner-up of Ross Chastain in a rain-delayed NASCAR Xfinity Series race Friday night, the Xfinity regular claimed his first-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win in only his third start in the series Sunday in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. It also was the first win for the No. 77 Spire Motorsports team.

“It’s absolutely a blessing,” Haley said. “It’s pretty incredible that I have so many great people around me that have given me this opportunity to come here to this level and stage that we are performing on. Obviously, Todd (Braun, Haley’s uncle and former NASCAR Xfinity Series team owner) and my family have done a great job, but the Fraternal Order of Eagles has given me this opportunity with Spire Motorsports and it’s truly a blessing. I never even saw myself running a Cup race until I got a call a few months ago to do Talladega. It’s just unreal, and I don’t know how to put it. I don’t know how to feel.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Jimmie Johnson were second and third. Ty Dillon was fourth to give Chevrolet a sweep of the top-four. Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five.

The race, scheduled for 160 laps and already rain-delayed from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, was red-flagged and eventually called official after the completion of lap 127 for a weather advisory that included lightning. Heavy rain followed. The race already was under caution for a 17-car crash on lap 119 that began will Austin Dillon attempted to block Clint Bowyer.

“I guess he didn’t want me to pass him,” Bowyer said of Dillon. ”I don’t know. I got under him, and he blocked, and we got together. I got off of him. Moved down and got off of him, and here he comes back down even more and just finally wrecked us all. That’s just part of racing like this.”

Kurt Busch, his team with eyes on the weather radar, stayed out the first several laps of the caution, hoping to steal a win if the race was called for rain. Busch and company, though, threw in the towel on that strategy, pitting just before they thought the race was going to restart. The call for Busch to pit left Haley, who also hand’t pitted under the caution, up front when the race was red-flagged.

Busch had recently gotten back on the lead lap after spinning on lap 75.

The first 100 laps was dominated, first, by Ford, and then, by Chevrolet. The Ford camp worked together to push Joey Logano to 35 laps-led and a stage win in the first 50 laps.

Another Ford driver, Kevin Harvick, was the leader with Logano in second after a cycle of green-flag pit stops completed on lap 38, but on the final lap of the stage, another Ford driver, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., pushed Logano by Harvick for the stage win.

“I thought things were gonna go a little better today than they ended up,” Logano said. ”We were able to get a stage win, which was great for our Mustang, but everything was going good until it didn’t.”

The second stage was dominated by Chevrolet’s Austin Dillon. Dillon took the lead by getting out in front of Ford’s Clint Bowyer on a restart following a lap 58 caution after Stenhouse spun from a failed attempt to block Busch.

Dillon led throughout the remainder of the second 50-lap stage, followed by fellow-Chevrolet drivers and Hendrick Motorsports trio Alex Bowman, Byron and Chase Elliott.

Dillon, Logano and Toyota’s Denny Hamlin each led laps early in the final stage before they were all involved in the big crash. Harvick hit the wall because of a tire problem just prior to the crash. He was involved in a multi-car crash that resulted in the fourth caution of the race on lap 83 when he got into Brad Keselowski in a drafting attempt gone wrong. Keselowski retired from the race as a result.

“I know I was going straight one moment, and the next moment, I wasn’t,” Keselowski said. ”It’s unfortunate. We were all two and three-wide racing and just got tagged from the back. I’m not sure exactly. I know we got to three-wide at the top of three and it looks like Kevin gave me a real straight push. I don’t know. It just took off on me. The Fords were working really hard to run together and Kevin, and Joey and (Ryan) Blaney and myself, I thought we were doing really good at it, but for whatever reason, the car just instantly turned, there. It’s a bummer for everybody, but we’ll move on and, hopefully, go to the next one and be alright.”

Finishing sixth through 10th were Corey LaJoie, Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Tifft and Busch.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway:

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Posted by on July 7, 2019. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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