Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Justin Haley hopes Cup competitors have “caught up a bit” to SVG

Justin Haley, who began last within the series’ inaugural street race last July, took the lead with 30 laps remaining, but with the race shortened by darkness, he finished with a big fuel reserve.

As it turned out, van Gisbergen, a three-time Supercars champion making his first Cup start, passed Haley for the lead after a late-race restart after which held on to his advantage in extra time to say victory on the two.2-mile, 12-turn course through Grant Park in downtown Chicago.

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It was Haley’s only top-five results of the 2023 season, but when he finished one position higher, a win could transform his season.

A 12 months later, van Gisbergen is competing full-time within the Xfinity Series, where he has won two road races this season, while also competing part-time within the Cup Series as he prepares for a full-time move to the series in 2025.

In the off-season, Haley moved to Rick Ware Racing and helped turn the organization around to grow to be a team that was consistently performing well each week.

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro celebrates victory

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse Racing, Enhance Health Chevrolet Camaro celebrates victory

Photo: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsports images

Since a lot of the competitors in Sunday’s race in Chicago have already got street racing experience, Haley believes the dynamic of this 12 months’s event might be quite different.

“Of course SVG is going to be fast, but you know, I don’t think he was in shape all weekend (last year),” Haley said. “Denny (Hamlin) won last 12 months, and the teams have definitely improved.

“Now that we’ve all done it, it’s only a road route, with slightly bit more risk factor if there’s an issue.

“He'll be fast again. I mean, he's done it his whole life. But I believe, or like to think, that we could catch up with him a little bit.”

Justin Haley, Rick Ware Racing, Plus Parts Ford Mustang

Justin Haley, Rick Ware Racing, Plus Parts Ford Mustang

Photo: David Rosenblum / NKP / Motorsports images

Haley said two things worked in van Gisbergen’s favor last 12 months – a brand new venue for Cup drivers and difficult weather conditions that required the usage of wet-weather tires, which ultimately shortened the event.

“I’m more confident about the whole thing, right? I think in the first practice we were all a little nervous,” he said. “And, uh, yeah, the rain all weekend was definitely tough. But yeah, the boldness level is just going up.

“You know, we have new tracks like North Wilkesboro and Iowa, and that's (still) just what you've done your whole life. Then you go there, you add the term 'street track' and you have concrete barriers super close and everything is different.”

“I just think about the logistics, knowing where everything is and how the process works. I think it will be a lot smoother for everyone this year.”

Although the 25-year-old Winamac, Ind., native currently sits thirty first within the series standings, he has two top-10 finishes within the last six races and 4 Thirteenth-place finishes or higher.

Haley believes he can once more be a title contender on the street racing series.

“I hope (the weather) is better this year, but I'm excited. I'm excited about every week we get to race now,” he said.

“There are some places where you go to a racetrack and also you say, ‘Wow, this is, this is amazing,’ right? And I believe, you understand, after we all got there last 12 months, we were really excited as an industry.

“It's nice to be in the city center and be in the middle of all the action.”

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