Justin Haley wins ARCA Talladega
Justin Haley’s first trip to Talladega Superspeedway turned out to be one for the ages. Haley, in his first-ever plate-track start, went from the back to the front in the No. 28 MDM Motorsports Toyota to win the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards General Tire 200 Saturday afternoon.
Haley held off the pack in a one-lap shootout to earn the biggest victory of his career.
“That was crazy,” said Haley. “We had to work our way from the back. We had a battery issue and made an unscheduled pit stop and went from fourth to 30th. I’ve always wanted to run Talladega…I can’t thank these MDM guys enough. My spotter Kevin Hamlin helped me through it. I didn’t know what I was doing but I listened and did what they told me, and it worked out.”
Haley pitted with the leaders under caution on lap 26 for fuel only. From there he raced his way into the top-five before the battery issue brought him back to pit road on lap 40. His MDM crew was able to fix the problem and topped him off with another full load of Sunoco gas for safe keeping.
Haley never changed tires during the 200-mile race.
“The General Tires were amazing. They had grip all day and we ended up on the same tires we started with. The 02 helped me to the finish…I gotta thank Andy (Seuss) for that.”
Andy Seuss, in the No. 02 Robert B. Our Co.-Canto Paving Chevrolet, finished a career-best second on the heels of Haley.
“I’m just happy to be here, let alone finish second,” Seuss said. “We got this car four weeks ago and put it together in my two-stall boat shop. We’re just a small team…a group of volunteers. To come here and run this well against all these ARCA super teams is beyond incredible. General Tires were great. It was gas only today.”
Spencer Davis, in the No. 15 DRIVEN-Venturini Motorsports Toyota, finished a career-best third in his first ARCA start.
“It was just survival of the fittest,” said Davis. “We saved just enough gas. We pushed the 02 to the finish. For my first time in ARCA to run P3…I’m just so thankful. I learned a lot in this race, but there are still tricks of the trade I need to learn. I was getting beat up a little out there, but I learned a lot.”
If it was all happy, happy for the first three, it was pure heartbreak for Brandon Lynn, who ran out of gas leading after he had taken the white flag. Lynn, in the No. 88 Remodeez/Worth-A-Shot Chevrolet for Mason Mitchell Motorsports, held firm on the bottom ahead of rookie Riley Herbst on the final lap before Bret Holmes got turned from behind into the outside wall. Then, under caution, Lynn’s tank went dry.
“Definitely a tough pill to swallow in this situation,” said Lynn. “But there was nothing we could do. You have to make sure that everyone’s safe on the track so the caution had to come out. I think we would have just made it to the checkered flag but I doubt we would have made it back around. At least they know we were there.”
Lynn led 19 laps before giving up the lead to Haley who led the final six. The race was extended by six laps for clean up before series officials sent the field back to green for the final circuit.
Austin Theriault, in Ken Schrader’s No. 52 Orlando Longwood Auto Auction Chevrolet, padded his point lead with a fourth-place finish after leading 30 laps. Shane Lee, who led 21 laps in the No. 22 Big Tine Ford, finished fifth.
Four cautions slowed the pace for 24 laps, one of which turned into a red flag situation for a multi-car pile-up in the tri-oval involving Kyle Weatherman, Will Kimmel, Noah Gragson, Mark Thompson, Ricky Sanders and Dalton Sargeant. All drivers, included Holmes from the late-race wreck, were examined and released.
Weatherman and Sargeant were tied for second in championship points before the crash.
“Overall, it’s a little bit disappointing… we took a hit in the run for the championship,” said Sargeant. “But if any team can rebound from this it’s Cunningham Motorsports.”
Gus Dean, Bobby Gerhart, Herbst, Tom Hessert and Bo LeMastus completed the top-10 finishers, respectively. Herbst was a victory lane threat right till the end but backed up in the outside groove after banging off Haley on the final lap.
The last time Haley raced in ARCA competition he won on the Springfield mile dirt in August of 2016.
Haley chocked up his run to good experience for when he returns to Talladega to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series later this year.
“The biggest thing for me was learning how these superspeedway races play out. You can only watch it on TV so many times,” Haley said.
The ARCA Racing Series is headed home next for the Menards 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21. The race will air same-day on FS1.