TALLADEGA, Ala. – A timely bump from his teammate on the final lap elevated Justin Haley into the race lead, allowing him to earn his first NASCAR Xfinity Series triumph during Saturday’s Unhinged 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.
The final dash to the checkered flag was setup by a big crash that happened on the frontstretch just as the leaders crossed the start/finish line with eight laps left. At the time Jeb Burton had just taken the race lead, with Haley following him in second.
The crash started when Noah Gragson got a badly timed bump from his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, which sent Gragson spinning in front of the field. The resulting incident collected at least 10 cars, with Gragson somehow not sustaining any damage, allowing him to continue.
Following a red flag for cleanup, the field lined back up for a three-lap dash to the checkered flag with Burton leading Haley, Austin Cindric, Anthony Alfredo, Haley’s teammate Ross Chastain and Alex Labbe.
On the restart Burton and Haley stayed side-by-side as they raced through turns one and two and down the backstretch. Burton got a push down the backstretch from Cindric, allowing him to pull clear of Haley and into the race lead entering turn three.
Burton raced past the start/finish line alone as Cindric and Haley raced for second behind him. Haley was able to use a run on the top to get back alongside Burton going down the backstretch, which is how they stayed when they passed under the white flag.
While Burton and Haley were battling for the lead, behind them the third Kaulig Racing car driven by A.J. Allmendinger had a run on the top side. He was able to get by Alfredo and Brett Moffitt on the top of a three-wide fight entering turn one, which allowed him to give Chastain a big push out of turn two.
In turn, Chastain gave Haley a big push down the backstretch, allowing him to pull clear of Burton to take the lead. The push from Chastain was so good that Haley was able to pull several car lengths ahead of the battle for second behind him by the time the field came out of turn four.
Haley was never challenged once he took the lead on the final lap, allowing him to cross the finish line .299 seconds ahead of Chastain to earn the victory. Haley dedicated the victory to his late crew chief Nick Harrison, who died midway through the 2019 season.
“I want to dedicate that win to Nick Harrison and the Harrison family,” Haley said. “He started this journey with me last year in my rookie year and losing him was pretty big. This is an incredible day.”
Uncertain what his future holds beyond this season, Haley said the victory can only help him as he sorts out his plans for 2021 and beyond.
“I’m fighting for a ride, fighting for the next time I get in a race car next year, so anytime you can win it definitely helps. Big hats off to the 11 crew, everyone at Kaulig Racing,” Haley said. “Matt Kaulig (team owner), we love you. Thank you so much. It’s amazing.”
Haley’s victory makes him the 32nd driver in NASCAR history to earn victories in all three NASCAR national divisions. He won his first NASCAR Cup Series race last season at Daytona Int’l Speedway and earned his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series victory in 2018 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Chastain fell short of the victory, but his runner-up finish allowed him to collect the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus and gave Kaulig Racing a sweep of the top-two positions. It’s the second-straight week that a Kaulig Racing driver won the Dash 4 Cash bonus. Allmendinger won the Dash 4 Cash bonus last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“When I saw Justin get free of the 8 car (Burton) I knew it was his race,” said Chastain. “I honestly have never been so happy to finish second.”
Burton finished third after leading at the white flag. Cindric finished fourth, with Moffitt completing the top-five finishers.
Haley, Chastain, Cindric and Labbe will be the four drivers battling for the Dash 4 Cash bonus next weekend at Pocono Raceway.
The race was slowed by two red flags, with the first coming after a crash with 18 laps left that collected six cars, including the car of two-time 2020 race winner Harrison Burton.
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