Following a doubleheader weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kaulig Racing came into Talladega Superspeedway with three opportunities to win the race and two opportunities to win the $100,000 bonus from the Dash 4 Cash program. When the checkered flag flew, the team accomplished both achievements as Justin Haley scored his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win at one of the world’s fastest superspeedway venues while Ross Chastain claimed the bonus with a runner-up finish.
Based on a random draw, Haley drew the pole position while Chastain started ninth. Teammate AJ Allmendinger, fresh off his Dash 4 Cash win last weekend at Homestead, started at the rear of the field due to his No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet Camaro failing pre-race inspection three times.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Haley and Chastain battled and remained at the front of the pack while Allmendinger was settling outside the top 20 and behind the lead pack while preserving his car to the end as a pre-cautionary approach for any potential incident to occur early in the race. This was how the trio ran through the competition caution on the 10th lap and when the first stage concluded on Lap 25, which was won by Haley.
Throughout the second stage, it was only Chastain who remained towards the front and battled for the lead as Haley, who started towards the front, was shuffled out of the draft, placed in a three-wide battle with the pack and drifted outside the top 10. Allmendinger, who was penalized for having too many crew members over his pit stall under the first stage’s break, continued running within the top 30 and behind the pack. When the stage concluded, Chastain settled in fifth while Haley worked his way back to sixth after spending the final two laps of the stage going three wide on the outside lane to gain momentum and positions to the start/finish line. Allmendinger finished 25th.
When the final stage started with less than 60 laps remaining, Chastain and Haley restarted third and fifth, but were shuffled back to eighth and 19th nearly 20 laps later as the racing towards the front started to intensify. Allmendinger continued to settle within the top 20 and behind the lead pack. With 37 laps remaining, all three Kaulig Racing competitors made a green-flag pit stop, but caught a break when the caution flew for a four-car wreck. Under caution, the trio remained on track to restart inside the top five. When the race restarted with 33 laps remaining, the trio occupied the podium positions with Chastain leading. A lap later, Haley was shuffled back to 12th.
Following another caution for a multi-car wreck, a red-flag delay spanning nearly 11 minutes and a restart with 14 laps remaining, Allmendinger was shuffled out of the draft and all the way back to 14th. Chastain was able to retain the lead while Haley was in seventh. For the next six laps, Chastain was locked in a heated battle with Austin Cindric and Jeb Burton for the lead while Haley was able to work his way back into the top five. Then came an 11-car pileup in the frontstretch with seven laps remaining, a wreck that occurred just behind Haley and Chastain while Allmendinger was barely able to dodge the carnage in one piece.
Following a second red-flag period spanning six and a half minutes, the racing resumed with three laps remaining, Haley, who restarted second, fired off past the restart zone and ignited a challenge with Burton for the lead with Chastain right behind his bumper and Allmendinger trying to work his way back to the front. A lap later, after Burton was able to pull away from the field, Haley came charging back on the outside lane and was alongside Burton when the final lap started. In Turn 2, Allmendinger gave Chastain’s No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet Camaro a push, who closed towards and pushed Haley’s No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro clear of Burton with the lead entering Turn 3. From there, Haley was gone and was able to beat the field by two-tenths of a second to claim his first elusive Xfinity win in his 47th series start.
With the victory, Haley, who led 16 laps, became the 164th driver to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the fifth regular-season series winner of the 2020 season, which has the Winamac, Indiana, native a guaranteed spot for the Xfinity Playoffs. He also became the third first-time winner of this season, (Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton), the fourth first-time series winner at Talladega and the 32nd driver to win across NASCAR’s top three national major division series. The win was also the second for crew chief Alexander Yontz. Following his victory burnouts and celebration with his teammates on the frontstretch, an emotional Haley took a moment to dedicate his first win to the late Nick Harrison, who was Haley’s crew chief last season until he died unexpectedly last July at age 37 following health issues.
“Well, I got one taken away from me at Daytona [July 2018], which is my own fault,” Haley said. “To, kind of, get redemption, I now won in the Cup Series, the Xfinity Series, Truck Series, K&N, ARCA, you name it, I’ve won in it. That meant a lot to me. The Xfinity win was bugging me. I got’em a little out of place there jumping to my Cup win, but it’s so special for everyone. I can’t believe [Burton] gave me [Chastain, restarting on the outside lane]. You never want teammate lined up and that’s what he did. Just having Ross behind me and AJ [Allmendinger], you see the team love here at Kaulig Racing. A win for one guy’s a win for all of us. Just super special. This car was amazing. I’m loving these Kaulig Racing guys. They’ve been so incredible.”
The runner-up finish was Chastain’s best result along with his third top-five finish through the first 11 races of this season. Above all, Chastain, who also led a race-high 24 of the event’s 113-scheduled laps, won his first Dash 4 Cash program of his career and the second in a row of this season for Kaulig Racing. With his result, Chastain jumped from fifth to fourth in the standings and trails points leader Gragson by 47 points.
“It was teamwork that got it done,” Chastain said. “I would say we were pretty even until the backstretch coming to the white flag. AJ Allmendinger in the 16 car gave me like a hundred horsepower boost down the back. I’ve never been hit so hard and not crashed as that. It started with the third car, took three of us, me, to the 10 car to [Haley] and he was able to clear [Burton]. It’s so gratifying to come these places. You come here and you can come here your whole career and never finish, never run good. AJ’s been coming here so long. He’s hit every corner of this place. It was that experience that paid off, and just having him as a teammate, it’s awesome. Justin and I have learned so much, and it’s all paying off.”
With their one-two finish, Haley and Chastain will contend for the fourth and final Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus of this season next weekend at Pocono Raceway along with Austin Cindric and Alex Labbe.
Allmendinger settled in seventh for his fourth top-10 result of this season and his sixth in the last two seasons while competing on a part-time basis for Kaulig Racing. He will return at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval-road course venue on July 4.
Following 11 races into the 2020 season, Kaulig Racing operations have notched a combined nine top-five results, 20 top-10 results and have led a combined 203 laps, the most gained for the organization, team owner Matt Kaulig and team president Chris Rice after 11 races in the team’s fifth year of existence. They have also won four NASCAR career races with three different drivers, all of whom currently drive for the team. For LeafFilter Gutter Protection, Haley’s sponsor which has also been a primary sponsor with the team since its existence in 2016, this marked the company’s first time earning a trip to victory lane with a competitor in a stock car race.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will return at Pocono Raceway on June 28, where the race will air at 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and will be part of a quadruple-header weekend.