A strong start ends with mixed results for Kaulig Racing at Charlotte

Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain and Justin Haley returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway looking to gain more momentum into the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. Both competitors started the race strong, but Chastain came through with a strong fourth-place result while a late accident left Haley in 29th.

Based on a random draw, Chastain started on the pole while Haley started third. When the green flag dropped, both Kaulig Racing competitors ran first and second through the competition caution on Lap 20. 

When the race restarted on Lap 26, Chastain used the high lane to maintain the lead while Haley dropped to fourth. During another restart six laps later, Chastain would engage in a heated battle for the lead against Kyle Busch. 

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With seven laps remaining, after spending a series of laps battling Busch for the lead and refusing to surrender an inch, Chastain was overtaken for the lead. During the final laps of the first stage, Chastain would not have enough to mount another challenge for Busch. When the first stage concluded, Chastain was second while Haley settled in third as both teammates earned valuable points towards the playoffs.

At the start of the second stage, Chastain, who restarted second, overtook Busch for the lead and held his advantage as high as two-tenths of a second. Meanwhile, Haley, who restarted fourth but was battling loose conditions, fell back to ninth. 

As the race progressed, Chastain would engage in another battle with Busch for the lead. On Lap 70, Busch attempted to overtake Chastain for the lead, but Chastain continued to hold his ground and make Busch earn the lead. A lap later, Chastain was able to hold a reasonable lead when Chase Briscoe challenged Busch for the runner-up spot. 

With nine laps remaining, however, Busch made his way back to Chastain and used lapped traffic to his advantage to reassume the lead in Turn 3. Chastain mounted a final challenge behind Busch’s rear bumper in Turn 4, but Busch benefited with a strong car on the following corner and was gone. Like the first stage, Chastain would not have anything for Busch as he finished second. Meanwhile, Haley, who continued to deal with loose-handling conditions, finished ninth.

Both Kaulig Racing teammates pitted under the stage break for air pressure adjustments along with four fresh tires and fuel. Chastain exited second after barely being beaten by Busch while Haley exited eighth.

When the green flag returned for the start of the final stage, Chastain went at it again for the lead over Busch and refused to surrender. Though his valiant efforts allowed him to lead three laps, Busch would regain his commanding lead. Behind the leaders, Haley, whose car handling started improving, made his way back into the top five.

Both teammates remained in the top five until green flag pit stops occurred with 56 laps remaining. Haley received a smooth stop while receiving an air pressure adjustment to his No. 11 LeafFilter Chevrolet. Chastain, however, ran into a pair of misfortunes. It all started when he slid his No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet barely outside of his pit stall and reversed, which cost him extra time during his stop. When he returned on track with 46 laps remaining, the engine of Timmy Hill’s machine blew up in a cloud of smoke in Turn 3, causing oil to fall on the racing surface. Chastain ran over the oil and made contact with the wall, causing him to pit for repairs. When he returned on track, he was one lap down and had fallen into the top 20.

Through all of his teammate’s misfortune, Haley found himself in second, restarting next to Austin Cindric with less than 40 laps remaining. Haley would keep his car inside the top five despite the race cycling through more cautions as more chaos ensured.

Following a wreck between Austin Hill and Jeremy Clements with 25 laps remaining, Chastain was able to race his way back onto the lead lap. Haley was prepared to restart fourth alongside Busch.

Both Kaulig Racing teammates would dodge a wreck with 17 laps remaining, but Haley would run into his own misfortune after sustaining damage and being involved in an incident with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones with less than 10 laps remaining.

Under caution, Haley made a pit stop to have the damage repaired, thus surrendering a potential top-five run. On a restart with three laps remaining, Haley’s night went from bad to worse when he was unable to avoid a spinning Tommy Joe Martins and made hard contact with Martins’ No. 44 Chevrolet before he slapped head on into the inside wall in the midst of a multi-car wreck. The damage was enough to end Haley’s race in 29th, but he emerged uninjured from the infield care center. 

In the midst of the chaos, Chastain made his way back into the top-10 and was prepared to restart in sixth. In overtime, Chastain made a bold move in Turn 1 to move into fourth, but he could only watch from a distance as Busch battled Daniel Hemric and Cindric for the victory on the final lap. When the checkered flag flew, Chastain came home in fourth.

“Dream come true, man,” Chastain said on FS1. “To go head to head with Kyle [Busch] and not lose a restart to him, [I] checked a lot of boxes in my mind. Still a lot of things for me to clean up. He’s still so dang good at all points of a run. Even though I was strong on the restarts – Lap 5, Lap 10, Lap 15 – [it] was tough for me to put together the consistent aggressiveness that he’s able to. This was a big improvement.” 

With his first top-5 finish of this season, Chastain moved from fifth to third in the standings and trails points leader Briscoe by 12 points. Haley dropped from sixth to eighth, tied with Brandon Jones, while trailing Briscoe by 65 points.

Chastain and Haley, along with their fellow Xfinity Series competitors, will return for the next scheduled event at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 30, at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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