Justin Haley is chomping at the bit to officially start the season with Rick Ware Racing at Daytona International Speedway in three weeks.
Haley has a multiyear deal with Ware, driving the No. 51 Ford Mustang. It will be the first time Haley has driven something other than a Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series. Of the 266 national series starts Haley has made in NASCAR, 265 of them have been with Chevrolet.
His praise of Ford comes from the manufacturer’s dominance on the superspeedways. Ford drivers draft well together, buying into the ‘One Ford’ mantra the group adopted a few years ago when manufacturer alliances became the most successful strategy.
“I’ve told everyone all week that I’ve raced against the Fords for so long,” Haley said during the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) convention. “They have the best fuel mileage, the best strategy and the best teamwork, and it has pissed me off for so long racing them that I’m so excited to sit in a Ford.
“They didn’t even pay me extra to say that. It’s so true.”
Doug Yates also takes pride in the horsepower Roush Yates Engines takes to the superspeedways. Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski combined for 187 of 260 laps led en route to finishing 1-2 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the spring of 2023. Chris Buescher won the summer Daytona race after Chase Briscoe sat on the pole and led the most laps. While teammate Logano led the most laps, Ryan Blaney won the fall Talladega Superspeedway race.
“They qualify so fast,” Haley said of the Ford’s speed. “I just went through Roush Yates the other day, and what an impressive operation they have built. I’ve never seen an engine shop that looks like that before. It looked like rocket science. There were lab coats and face masks and big rubber gloves and microscopes and all sorts of stuff just to build horsepower.
“They have crushed us on fuel mileage and now we’ve got an awesome brand-new looking Dark Horse Mustang. So, I’m super excited to go down to Daytona and see what we’ve got.”
Haley is not to be overlooked on superspeedways, either. All four of his NASCAR Xfinity Series victories came on superspeedways: two at Daytona and two at Talladega. In the summer of 2019, Haley and Spire Motorsports had positioned themselves in the right place at the right time to be declared the winners of the weather-shortened Cup Series race at Daytona.
Rick Ware Racing will field two full-time entries with Haley the organization’s flagship driver. The No. 15 entry will have multiple drivers.
Ware has signed a driver to build around for years to come, while Haley gets a fresh start with a new team and manufacturer. Both sides are optimistic about what’s to come but are taking the journey one week at a time.
“It’s an ultra-competitive racing series, and it’s going to take some time,” Haley said. “Obviously, with everything we have going, I feel like all of our alliances with Ford and Roush Yates and RFK have grown a lot over the offseason, and I continue to see those grow. The first five to 10 races, we’ll kind of be what we are and then Chris [Lawson] and everyone at RWR will start to elevate and start to hit our stride. We’ll just have to see.
“It’s not going to be like we go and rip the first 10 wins off of the season. I feel like we’re realistic, but I also feel like we really want to be competitive, and there are all the right tools now to be competitive at Rick Ware. We have every single tool. We just have to take them out of the toolbox and figure out how to use them and apply that.”