TALLADEGA, Ala. – If you ask Justin Haley whether he’s overly excited about his 20th birthday, he’ll probably grin at you, shrug and laugh it off in as cool a manner as his racing approach.
That’s just Haley’s style. He’s not flashy, he doesn’t get too hyped up and he lets his actions – not his words – do the talking, at least most of the time.
The Winamac, Ind., native is hoping that same approach applies during Sunday afternoon’s GEICO 500.
Haley will say good bye to his teenage years in style during the weekend headliner at Talladega Superspeedway, celebrating turning 20 years old by making his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut for Spire Motorsports, driving the No. 77 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the 2.66-mile Alabama oval.
However, in typical Haley fashion, he’s cool as a cucumber amid the build-up for his first top-level start.
“The Cup car is just awesome; it’s the final step on that ladder,” Haley said. “I’m super grateful for and excited about the opportunity that Spire Motorsports has given me this weekend to be able to compete in the Cup Series, especially at Talladega, which is a track that I’ve had a lot of success at over the past few years. Superspeedways have been the thing I’ve really been trick at in NASCAR.
“At the end of the day though, it’s just another race car, so I’m trying not to overthink it or anything.”
Much like polesitter Austin Dillon, Haley had a bunch of little puzzle pieces that all fell into place and lined up together to help make his maiden Cup Series voyage even more special than expected.
“It’s crazy how this fell on my birthday, but that’s not the only thing that’s really cool about this deal,” Haley noted. “The No. 77 was my grandpa’s number growing up, and it was also my uncle – Todd Braun’s – number when he used to race, so that’s pretty cool as well. Having F.O.E. on the car just ties it all back together, especially because they supported my uncle back when he was racing, also.
“For everything to collab into this one moment is pretty cool.”
Haley has been associated with the Fraternal Order of Eagles – an international non-profit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality – going all the way back to his championship season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2016 with Harry Scott Jr. and Justin Marks.
The F.O.E. was also a key sponsor of Haley in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at GMS Racing, and now returns to back him in his first appearance in the Cup Series.
“To have the Fraternal Order of Eagles onboard with me … I’ve had success with them, I’ve grown into being part of a family with them and they’re just such good people,” said Haley. “I don’t know how it all went down back in the very beginning, but they helped Todd out and my grandpa out when they owned their Busch team back in the day … and I think they sponsored Jason Leffler for a while, but somehow through all of it, I got hooked up with them through Todd and I’ve just grown a relationship with them.
“They jumped on full-time with me last year (in the Truck Series), and I couldn’t get any (Xfinity Series) races with them this season, but they are an associate sponsor with Kaulig Racing and on my modified as well, so it’s a pretty cool deal,” he added. “I’m always representing them. They’re on anything I’ll drive, probably for the rest of my life, because it’s a big family and special to be part of the brotherhood.”
Though some young drivers might be intimidated ahead of their first start at the premier level of the sport, Haley is doing what he always does: staying level-headed and taking it all in stride.
“This feel kind of like when I go run my modified, to be honest,” Haley admitted. “There’s a lot of family, a lot of familiar faces and just a generally good vibe around all of this. It’s cool, but it’s just another race car and just another race. I’m not too hyped up or anything like that about it. I was really focused on the Xfinity car this weekend, honestly, because I felt like we had a shot at the win. It just didn’t work out.
“It’s a low pressure-situation,” he continued. “It’s a high-pressure situation to do well, but it’s still a low-pressure situation because there’s no expectations. It’s just me going out there and having fun at the end of the day. That’s the goal and what we hope to accomplish, along with staying out of trouble.
“I’m going to enjoy the moment, though, and soak it all in as best I can.”