Haley feels momentum building at Rick Ware Racing – ‘We’re doing a lot with a little’

Justin Haley admits it’s taken longer for Rick Ware Racing to get to where they are now than he would have liked, but feels it’s starting to come together, as evidenced by a top-10 finish last at Darlington Raceway.

“The mountain was probably a little taller than I anticipated that we were climbing,” Haley said after his ninth-place finish in the Goodyear 400. “But I feel like we’re in a good spot now. I feel like we’re bringing 20th-place cars each and every week, which is a big improvement, and we can continue to improve on that.”

The efforts of the No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse team for Haley and crew chief Chris Lawson netted the organization its first top-10 finish on a non-superspeedway. Rick Ware Racing had eight previous top-10 finishes in the Cup Series, which had come at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.


It was Haley’s best finish through 13 starts and the team’s fourth top-20 result.

“I’m having a blast,” Haley said. “It’s a lot more work than I’ve probably been tasked with Monday through Friday, especially with the last race team. It was kind of hands-off (where) you kind of showed up and drove and that was it. But I enjoy it. I’m at the shop almost every day for hours and hours, helping, and I feel like I’m doing everything I can do to improve this race team and set myself up for the future.

“It’s just a lot of hours right now. It’s a lot of work for everyone involved. We’re doing a lot with a little, and I feel like when we do have these solid runs, it’s a big shot in the arm. It’s definitely a confidence booster.”

Alliances help, but Haley is buoyed by playing an in-depth role in the  Rick Ware Racing operation. Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Haley became the organization’s cornerstone when he signed a multi-year deal with Ware in July. He is the team’s primary driver in the No. 51, while the No. 15 Ford shares drivers. Kaz Grala will drive the car in most Cup Series races.

Ware first fielded a car in 2012. In recent years, however, his commitment to the series has seen the performance take incremental steps forward. Along the way that has included hiring experienced personnel such as Tommy Baldwin (competition director) and Robby Benton (team president) to entering into technical alliances with top teams. Rick Ware Racing has a current alliance with RFK Racing after a previous one with Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I think it’s been extremely important for the core group of Rick Ware Racing employees that have been there for years and years and years that we can succeed,” Haley said. “It’s the same guys who have been working on the race cars forever; it’s no one different. We put the race cars together, our Rick Ware Racing employees. It’s all out of our own shop. Yeah, we’re out of a corner at RFK, but it’s still 100% a Rick Ware Racing car.

“It’s been cool for me to see what a good run can do to the guys that work on our race that put in all the hard hours.”

The alliance only goes so far, however. Rick Ware is not a manufacturer-supported team, so the food chain of information is limited. Haley made clear that RFK Racing is helpful in the partnership and provides everything allowed, such as shocks, springs and setups, as Haley does the simulator work. But there is no aerodynamic information available.

Haley’s average finish is 24.8, completing 99.6% of the season’s laps. The team is 32nd in points, though, after being disqualified at Circuit of The Americas after crossing the finish line 17th. Haley’s car did not meet the minimum post-race weights.

“We’ve had some great runs,” Haley said. “It’s unfortunate we got disqualified at COTA because I feel like we’d be in a pretty decent points position without that DQ. But that was just another example of a team that had never been to post-race tech, and we just didn’t quite know what to expect. It’s a learning process every week.

“I feel like the Cup Series is harder than it has ever been at this moment, not to take anything away from the past. There’s not really a slow car out there anymore. It’s pretty tough. So, we’re just continuing to improve each and every week, and focus on ourselves and do the best that we can.”

Story originally appeared on Racer