While some NASCAR Cup Series teams struggle to find their footing in this new Next Gen season, driver Justin Haley said he’s never felt better.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as confident in a race car as I do right now,” Haley said, as reported by Racer Website. “And that’s just a testament to Kaulig Racing and what we’re doing and our speed. We have speed week in and week out; I’m trying to gain trust in the Cup Series against my competitors and obviously, that’s hard to do.
“I’m just comparing myself to my teammates that come and go and the other rookies, per se, of similar amounts of starts. I feel good. And I feel like as long as we keep our heads in line, we can have a good shot at making the playoffs.”
Though his undeniable moxie isn’t yet reflected in the standings — Haley currently sits 23rd in points after a bad Richmond outing — the racer’s confidence is infectious. He credited his hard-working team for his early success.
“We’re above expectations right now,” Haley said of his team. “We’re sitting pretty good in points. Obviously, that can change in a heartbeat, but I’m really proud of everything we’ve done at Kaulig Racing. We’ve had a lot of crew members come and go, and we’re just trying to find a stable crowd of crew members to work on our car, and obviously not having Trent (Owens, crew chief) for a few weeks, we’ve had Chris (Rice) step in. He’s done a great job.”
Justin Haley made his Next Gen debut in L.A. at the Busch Light Clash in February
Kaulig Racing dabbled in the Cup Series the last two seasons. The boutique outfit made one start in 2020 and nine last year. Haley is their primary driver this season in their first full year of competition.
Haley also said that the team is just a few small mistakes away from really competing at the highest level every Sunday.
“We’ve had speed at times, we’ve just got the small things to work out as a new team,” Haley said. “Sim time, pit road, stuff like that needs to be cleaned up. I can do a little bit better job. These short practice sessions have been hard and it’s really put an emphasis on sim time, which has helped tremendously.
“Chevrolet has a new simulator that they built last year, and it is leaps and bounds above anything I’ve ever driven, so it’s been pretty spot on. It performed well for COTA — we had speed at COTA and (at Richmond).
“I think we’re good. At the beginning of the season, I think we’re ahead of where we thought we would be.”
Justin Haley also pointed out that the Next Gen era adds a good bit of parity to the races, especially in terms of team resources.
“We went to L.A. (for the Busch Light Clash) and I was just hoping to make the race,” he said. “And then I go and run like I did at L.A., and it kind of proved to everyone in the garage that it doesn’t really matter how much or how little you have. You can do anything you want as long as you get it right. We’ve had our ups and downs. It’s just part of it.”