Championship 4 driver Justin Haley was left with the bitter taste of unfinished business after finishing third in the final NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series standings in 2018, even amid three wins and 18 top-10 finishes.
Looking forward to 2019, Haley was glowing at the awards banquet in Charlotte, North Carolina. Haley will climb into the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro, the team announced Dec. 1.
“I really wasn’t looking at the time,” Haley said about his initial talks with Kaulig Racing. “But it’s really fallen into place and I’m really happy with Kaulig. I’m excited to be in another Chevrolet; it’s what I’ve done my whole life. Hopefully we can jump in where Ryan (Truex) left off and have a really good season.”
Haley said he did have an offer from GMS Racing to move to the team’s No. 23 car in Xfinity after piloting the No. 24 Truck Series Chevrolet for two seasons, but the 19-year-old driver already had signed a multi-year Xfinity Series deal with Kaulig Racing and honored that. It was announced last week that John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 23 for GMS in the Xfinity ranks.
The 2018 season was Haley’s second full-time Truck Series season when his first win came at Gateway Motorsports Park in June. He added a second victory at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to open the playoffs and his third came at Texas Motor Speedway during the playoffs.
Haley is excited about competing with a stout Xfinity rookie class in 2019 that includes Nemechek and fellow Championship 4 driver Noah Gragson, who is moving up with JR Motorsports. Haley says competing in Xfinity cars actually suits his driving style a little better.
“I have to unlearn some bad habits from trucks,” Haley said with a laugh. “They have such amazing grip that you can just kind of bully them and put them where you want.
“I ran really well in my ARCA days, and obviously they’re very similar to the Xfinity cars. The starts I had in the Xfinity Series this year went pretty well. I think I’m going to perform in that series a lot better and hopefully will progress better.”
Kaulig’s driver in 2018, Ryan Truex, scored one top five and 11 top 10s in the No. 11 Camaro in 2018. Kaulig Racing has yet to score its first victory in three years in the Xfinity Series; Blake Koch drove for the team for two years before Truex.
“They were a new team just two years ago,” Haley said, noting 2019 is a growth opportunity both for himself and Kaulig. “I like the direction they’re heading and there’s no reason we can’t win next season.”