Young team owner Matt Kaulig told “his people” prior to NASCAR’s Fourth of July weekend at Daytona that he wanted to win one, and they were bringing more cars and teams to the track for that purpose. Today, he has two shiny new trophies to display at team headquarters. On Friday, Kaulig Racing went one, two, three in the NASCAR XFINITY Circle K Firecracker 250. On Saturday, Mother nature stepped in and said “You Shall Not Race Today!” so NASCAR rescheduled the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Coke Zero Sugar 400 to Sunday. Mother Nature stepped in again and shortened the race with lighting and rain, handing young Justin Haley his first career NASCAR Cup win in just his third start.
Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Circle K Firecracker 250 was the race that team owner Matt Kaulig put the most thought into winning. It’s also the race into which he put the most effort, entering and qualifying three cars. Truck Series regular Ross Chastain took off fast and held on for the Stage 1 win in the Kaulig Number 77. Recently retired AJ Allmendinger took the seat in the Kaulig Number 10 and piloted it to the Stage 2 win. All three Kaulig cars teamed up to push one of them to Victory Lane, with Ross Chastain getting the short straw and the win when it was all said and done. Teammate Justin Haley in the Kaulig Number 11 came in second and AJ took third.
Last year on this day, Justin Haley was nursing his wounds after seemingly winning the XFINITY race and having NASCAR take the win away because they judged that he had gone below the double yellow line to advance his position, which video evidence supported. Today, he’s feeling sweet vindication after being declared the winner of a rain delayed and shortened Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Sunday.
Ford dominated the early portion of the race because their drivers were better able to follow manufacturer directions and team up. However, Chevy and Hendrick drivers got together to give Kyle Larson in the Chip Ganassi Racing Number 42 the win in Stage 1. That teamwork again paid off to give Richard Childress Racing’s oldest grandson, Austin Dillion in the iconic Number 3, the Stage 2 win.
Then things got crazy. Racing got harder and less forgiving because the rain was coming and lightning had been reported in the area. Lap 119 saw THE BIG ONE, with 18 cars, most of them top runners, taken out of contention. The field was given one to go on the yellow by NASCAR; the two leaders, JJ Yeley and Kurt Busch, went down Pit Road for their last stop. Then lightning hit seven miles from the track and the red came back out with Justin Haley in first place. A little more than two hours later, Haley was declared the winner. Hendrick drivers William Byron in the 24 and Jimmie Johnson took second and third, respectively.