Justin Haley scores first-career Talladega victory
On a banner day for Kaulig Racing at Talladega Superspeedway, Justin Haley got his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory and Ross Chastain got the cash.
Haley, who doesn't have a ride locked down for next year, beat teammate Chastain to the finish line by 0.299-seconds at the end of a three-lap dash in Saturday's Unhinged 300 at the 2.66-mile track.
Chastain collected the $100,000 Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus as the highest finisher among four eligible drivers—a week after teammate AJ Allmendinger claimed an identical cash prize with a fourth-place run at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With Allmendinger winning in a part-time role June 7 at Atlanta, Kaulig now has won two of the last four Xfinity Series races in addition to the consecutive cash bonuses.
An emotional Haley climbed from the right-side window of his car after the race, with more than one reason to be choked up by the maiden win. Haley's crew chief during his rookie season, Nick Harrison, passed away unexpectedly on July 21 last year, and Haley celebrated his bond with his former crew chief.
"First of all, I want to dedicate this win to Nick Harrison and the Harrison family, who started this journey with me last year in my rookie year," Haley said. "Losing him was pretty big.
"Just an incredible day. Emotionally, 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."
As for climbing through the "wrong" window, Haley said he was looking for a signature move after winning.
"I'm the littlest guy," said the 21-year-old. "I'm the only one that can do it, and I still struggled."
Fortuitously, all three Kaulig drivers were on pit road on Lap 76, when Riley Herbst's spin off the bumper of fifth-place finisher Brett Moffitt's Chevrolet caused the fourth caution of the afternoon. The three teammates restarted up front on Lap 81 of 113 and were contenders thereafter.
Jeb Burton had the lead for the restart with three laps left, but with help from Chastain, Haley pulled away on the final lap. Burton came home third and Austin Cindric grabbed fourth.
"When I saw Justin get free of the 8 car (Burton), I knew it was his race, and I honestly have never been so happy to finish second," Chastain said.
Allgaier triggered the last caution when JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson checked up behind Chastain's block on Lap 106.
"It was just disappointing," Allgaier said. "I hate it for everybody at JR Motorsports. Right there, Noah had a really good run to the outside of the 10 (Chastain), and he pulled up to block, and as soon as he did, it started to get (Gragson's) car loose.
"He checked up, and I ran into the back of him. I thought we were going to be OK, and then (JRM teammate) Michael (Annett) got into the back of me."
Harrison Burton's record streak of 10 straight top-10 finishes as a Sunoco rookie came to a violent end in Turn 3 on Lap 97.
The No. 52 Chevrolet of Kody Vanderwal checked up after contact with the car of Jefferey Earnhardt in front of him, turned sideways near the top of the track and chased the No. 20 Toyota of Burton down the track. Contact from Vanderwal's car turned Burton sideways and propelled him nose first into the outside wall.
The cars of Joe Graf Jr., Josh Williams and Colin Grant also were collected.
"It looks like we were all running the top and we were single file, and they checked up really hard," said Burton, who had finished in the top 10 with two wins in the first 10 races of the season. "I don't know if I didn't get checked up in time. It looks like one of them got sideways and then it was just all over.
"It's so hard to tell what's going on. There's so much going on, even when you're running single file. Just a tough day for us. We had a fast race car and trying to make moves work on the bottom. Just kind of got shuffled to the back and from then on, that's just kind of how it went down."
Gragson salvaged a 10th-place result and maintained a 15-point lead over second-place Chase Briscoe in the series standings.
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