“This is going to change this kid’s life. This is going to be an incredible moment for him.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“There are actually Vegas odds that had him at 1000-1 to win this race.” – Rick Allen
“When the trophy goes up in your house, it doesn’t matter the story. You are the winner.” – Steve Letarte
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – July 7, 2019 – Twenty-year-old Justin Haley won his first-ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this afternoon, as NBC Sports presented live coverage of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The race, which was originally scheduled for Saturday night on NBC, was postponed by NASCAR until Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on NBC due to inclement weather. Today’s race was red-flagged with 33 laps to go due to inclement weather with Haley in the lead and was officially called after an hour-plus delay.
NBC Sports’ Rick Allen called the action alongside 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton and racing legend and two-time Daytona 500 Champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett provided commentary from the Peacock Pit Box.
Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, and Dave Burns reported from pit road while Rutledge Wood reported from various sites around Daytona International Speedway throughout the race.
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBC and NBCSN:
Haley during his post-race interview with Snider: “The stars aligned. I didn’t ever think I was going to get redemption back from last year at Daytona when I got the Xfinity win taken away…and it makes that second-place win on Friday (at Daytona) a lot better.”
Earnhardt Jr. on Haley winning the Coke Zero Sugar 400: “This is going to change this kid’s life. This is going to be an incredible moment for him, considering everything that he’s been through.”
Allen: “There are actually Vegas odds that had him at 1000-1 to win this race.”
Letarte: “I’ve been fortunate to win one of these rain-shortened races. Guess what? When the trophy goes up in your house, it doesn’t matter the story. You are the winner. You won that race. Everyone down there would have taken this trophy. Today it was Justin Haley.”
Earnhardt Jr. on if his first win came in same scenario as Haley: “I would demand that we’re going to celebrate this win in Victory Lane. I don’t care if I have to do it in the rain. I’m not doing it in the media center.”
Burton on Haley leading as the race was red-flagged: “Last year in the Xfinity race he thought he won the race but he got called for passing on the yellow line. They gambled here and they have nothing to lose. They were coming to one to go, but now the caution lights are back on the pace car.”
Burton on caution following one to go announcement by NASCAR: “I went down to the NASCAR tower to have a conversation about what’s been going on. What happened was they did not have a lightning strike within the parameter. They were clear so they give one to go. Then down the backstretch, they get a lightning strike that was confirmed to be 7.4 miles away. Then, they have to go to caution. NASCAR did not have one in the area, they cleared it, but then they had one down the back straightaway and they had to call it.”
Allen on the caution coming out after initially declaring one to go: “It’s a timing issue. Obviously, NASCAR is not looking at who’s leading the race or who’s on pit road when they make these calls. It’s exactly when something happens. The caution had to come out or they had to go back to caution and in this situation. When lightning strikes within eight miles, if it is eight miles within the venue, they have to go to caution and red flag. It’s a safety issue for everyone in the grandstands, for everyone on the race track, anywhere around this venue. They have to do that for a safety issue.”
Burton on NASCAR’s decision to return to yellow flag after telling drivers one to go: “(Kurt Busch’s team) made a great call. (Crew chief) Matt McCall made a call, that they were going to stay on the race track. But NASCAR gave one to go. They said ‘we’re coming to one to go,’ so that means the race is going to restart, so the No. 1 car comes down pit road. Then down the back straightaway, conditions change, they get a lightning strike and they call it off. So right now, Matt McCall is like, ‘I was in the right position. You gave one to go, why did you give one to go?’”
Allen: “Crushing for Kurt Busch to make that move. Potentially could have had a win today.”
Allen on impending weather following big wreck with 38 laps to go: “There’s a storm outside the race track and there’s a storm on the race track.”
Earnhardt Jr. on blocking that led to big wreck on Lap 118: “Anytime you see a guy get turned around entering a corner, it’s going to take a lot of guys with it. That’s just one of the worst places – if not the worst place – to get turned, and it’s the blocking, the blocking we’ve talked about all weekend. A lot of guys might have Brad Keselowski’s mental attitude about it. ‘I’m not allowing it, I’m not putting up with it.’ We saw it already today with Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.”
Earnhardt Jr. on wild racing on Lap 112: “Something has got to give…does that lap pay more than the others? I don’t know what was going on there.”
Snider on manufacturer strategy: “Jim Campbell, the head of Chevrolet Motorsports, called every owner and driver individually and reminded them, ‘We’re your biggest sponsor.’…how do you stick to that plan? Junior, you’ve been in that Chevy camp before. When the big boss calls, do you stick with his plan even with a lot of young, hungry drivers up front and a seven-time champ (Jimmy Johnson) in the back of this pack?”
Earnhardt Jr.: “I’d tell him ‘Yeah’ with my best poker face…I’ve got a crew chief and a team in my pit that wants me to win. I’ve got guys that built this car and brought me to this race track to win. I know all of those drivers feel the same way. When it comes down to it, when presented with an opportunity, they’re going to do what they have to do to win this race.”
Stavast with 10 laps to go in Stage 2: “Expect things to start to get desperate…the No. 3 team just told Austin Dillon we have got lightning moving into the area. This could be for the win so he is not going to relinquish anything.”
Burton on the Fords involved in Lap 84 caution: “There are four cars on pit road and they are all Fords…that’s what we talked about. You can work together all you want to, but if something goes bad, you’re all going to go together.”
Earnhardt Jr. on the competitive end to Stage 1: “All bets were off on the back straightaway between manufacturers and teammates. That answers the question for all of us – at least with Ford.”
Letarte on manufacturer strategy: “Try to schedule dinner with 15 of your friends. It sounds like fun, but they all want to go to a different restaurant, they all want to go at a different time. It’s next to impossible. You want to go with four or five friends, it’s much easier to plan. We have seen these strategies work with four or five cars, but now when you start talking 14, 15, 16 cars, I’m just not sure. I’ve heard of good planning, but if they can somehow pull this off on the racetrack, I’ll be shocked…As a crew chief, I feel like my hands are tied. I need to do what’s best for my driver. This is going to be frustrating for some of the crew chiefs and interesting to see how many can play along all day long.”