With a victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Justin Haley knows that he will be apart of the Round of 6 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs. That means entering this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, there’s no pressure for the GMS Racing driver.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering Talladega?
JUSTIN HALEY: I’m pretty excited for Talladega for a lot of reasons. I’ve always been pretty good at Talladega – won an ARCA race up there, and led some laps last year and ran up front. Just in general, the plate races have been good to go me and I’ve seem to taken it to it very well, and GMS (Racing) is a good team as they bring good cars and trucks. So I think it’s been a pretty good match so far.
I’m looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to it because I can go there and enjoy it, enjoy the process of drafting, and helping teammates and using the air to try and get the win. It’s going to be a lot better than if we were in a tough spot. I’m looking forward to it.
PS: Now are you planning to be conservative or go all out?
JUSTIN: I think we’re going to air towards the aggressive side; I think that’s the side we sort of air towards everywhere. We really don’t change mentality week-to-week, but rather with a focus on winning. We never just want to survive; we want to win. That mentality has worked for us so far this year, and we’ve won a few times so I think we’ll just keep with that and focus on winning.
PS: How much relief is on your mind in knowing your locked in via the victory to start this round?
JUSTIN: It’s a big relief. It’s pretty big for us, and like I said, I think going into it, we’d be fine, but Talladega is one of these places where if you do have raw speed, it doesn’t show as much as a mile and a half or a short track. There’s a lot of trucks that run really good at superspeedways that usually don’t, so you have them in the pack racing.
Like I said, I’m just super thankful and especially with how spread out the truck series schedule is. We had a few weeks between Las Vegas and Canada, and then a full month in between since then. It’s been pretty relaxing to get this time off, but I’m ready to go for Talladega.
PS: That said, take us back to those final laps at CTMP. What was going through your mind?
JUSTIN: Canada was obviously really cool for us, and not a lot of people know, but I have a road course background. It’s kind of one of the races that I had circled for a long time and wanted to run well there. We ran well there last year as I qualified second and finished fourth after a bad pit stop. I’ve always just had this monkey on my back at these road courses races that I couldn’t win. I’d go run TransAm, K&N cars, ARCA cars – always finish second, track record, pole, but never win a race. Finally I got the win in Canada on a road course and that meant a lot to my family in putting in a lot and coming from a road course background.
But the last few laps, obviously they were very intense. We were very under-motored all day. The Toyotas had brought their manufacture motors and KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) had actually gone up and tested both motors to see which was better, because we all had a suspicion. They were just almost a second and a half faster than us a lap, and we were kind of the underdogs all day; me and John Hunter (Nemechek) were the only ones that could keep up with them all day.
The last few laps, we had that restart where I restarted third and I knew I couldn’t run down Todd (Gilliland), or Noah (Gragson), or keep up with them for that matter. So I let Noah go on that restart for the green-white-checkered. I knew my best chance I had was to have Noah go up there and get into Todd, and that happened. I had that in the back of my mind. It was one of those things like you have a lot of faith in something, and there was something in the back of my head saying it would be okay, to let Noah go and it would come to you. It was pretty intense and obviously they got together, and the seas parted for us and it was a cool experience.
PS: How would you evaluate your team’s playoff chances right now?
JUSTIN: I think our playoff chances are good. We have the best average finish in the playoffs, an average finish of second, which is great. I know we’re only two races in, but we’re a winning team, a top-three team any given week. I know we were seeded low going into the playoffs, but that was just due to some bad luck early in the season and it’s hard to make up when you get behind the first few races. We had a few bad races, which weren’t really our issue. We had a few mechanical failures that were from the manufacture, so nothing we could do.
But we’ve run up front all year, had winning trucks at multiple races, so I think what it comes down to is I know we’re a top-four team if we can get Miami if everything falls right, and you have to have a little luck to do so. But at the end of the day, if we get to (Homestead-)Miami, we’ve done everything we’ve can and from there it’s just a chessmatch.
PS: Entering the next round – Martinsville, Texas, and ISM. What’s your weakest and what’s your strongest?
JUSTIN: Martinsville is my least favorite track. Man, I just do not like that track. I’ve never ran really well there. I’ve been set-up for good finishes – second, third with a few laps to go and gotten wrecked. That’s why I don’t like Martinsville is a lot of it is out of your hands. The other two tracks are phenomenal for us. Texas is my best track on the circuit; I can’t tell you why, but my crew chief Kevin Bellicourt and the 24 guys have just really taken to Texas. We qualified pole in this race last year, and led a good part of it, and I’ve never finished worse than sixth there. Phoenix is a good track for us, too. We were actually going to win that race last year but got into some trouble racing for the lead. So two really good tracks for us.
The only two that I’m not sure about is Miami and Martinsville. Martinsville we can make up for, but Miami we’re really going to have to get at. A lot of times on the simulator and getting used to running the wall, and fine tuning the truck to get it better.
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