JUSTIN HALEY, No. 51 Treetop Apple Juice/Jacob Ford Mustang Dark Horse – “This is an awesome opportunity. I feel like this has been a refreshing move to come over here to Rick Ware Racing. Everyone at Ford Performance have been super welcoming to me and we have a lot of manufacturer backing and being on RFK’s campus and around all those great people has been awesome. I feel like we showed at the Clash a small sample size of what we are capable of. I have an awesome crew chief, one that has won a lot of races and championships and we have to just work hard.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “Just everything. I feel like I have been on the Ford simulator more this year than I had previously in the past two years. Ford Performance has been so welcoming and all their people have really put in a lot of effort. On the RWR side of it, Robbie and Tommy and Chris and Rick himself it has been an open door type of situation. You can always go have a conversation and talk with them. I feel like we all have a lot of synergy and are working hard together and can have tough conversations. If I need something I can go to them. That has been refreshing. I feel like it can be a positive change for us.”

YOU MENTIONED LAST YEAR AT POCONO THAT RICK WANTED TO SIGN YOU TO LIKE A LIFETIME DEAL. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? “It is obviously huge. I feel like Rick has made a lot of strides recently. He has a lot of race teams with a lot of success and we just want to change the narrative. That was something Spire has done for a little bit and I raced for them for a while but I feel like this is just something that I believe in. When we went to LA and qualified 10th against teams that have gift shops bigger than our race shop. Truthfully I feel like that lit a fire underneath all of us that we could go be competitive. There are going to be tough runs and tough conversations and things that we will struggle with but at the end of the day I can go to any of them and have an open conversation and be better. It has just been super refreshing and I feel so welcome and I feel like I am in a good position.”

CAN YOU PUT EXPECTATIONS ON THE YEAR? “No, you can’t. We still only have 20 or 30 people or whatever the number is. We are working hard. I think the expectation is to just show up and be competitive and go from there. I think the Clash is a super small sample size but I think we surprised ourselves. I think as long as we keep surprising ourselves and showing what we can do then we will be ahead.”

IS IT BEING OVERLOOKED WHAT YOU COULD MEAN TO THE RFK GUYS IN TERMS OF AN ALLIANCE AT THIS RACE? “Yeah, I think the thing with RFK is that we want to show RFK that we are an asset too. We just don’t want it to be a one-sided information where we are just taking and not giving anything. I have worked with Brad (Keselowski) a little on the sim and his crew chief and it has been awesome to get behind closed doors and work with those guys and everyone at RFK. We are still kind of off on our own separate island and doing things our own way, but I think when it comes down to it, we want to be looked at as an asset to them.”

NUMBERS MATTER HERE COME SUNDAY RIGHT? “Yeah and that is something I have never had in previous years. I would come to a speedway and it would just be me and my teammate and we weren’t really included in the manufacturer stuff. That couldn’t be more opposite at Ford Performance. They really believe in me and Rick and our team and that has been awesome to be a part of that group.”

WHAT DOES FORD DO DIFFERENTLY THAT YOU WEREN’T ACCUSTOMED TO WITH CHEVROLET? “Just in general everyone at Ford has been super welcoming. I feel like I have been on the Ford simulator more this year than I had been the previous two years, which is big for me. Everyone has just been so nice and that is refreshing to me. I am super excited to work with them and I feel like I have raced against them for so long on the speedways. They have a lot of numbers on the speedways and have always been fast. I honestly can’t say enough. It is a scary transition to go to a different manufacturer and a different team but I don’t know anything differently could have been done to make me feel more welcome.”

RICK WARE RACING IS A BUILDING TEAM, WHAT HAS IMPRESSED YOU MOST IN THE SHORT TIME YOU HAVE BEEN THERE? “It is just super open. You can have a tough conversation with anyone and I feel like we all can kind of go back and forth and have those conversations. I feel like I have a seat at the table and can make large decisions with Rick and I can be a part of making those shop decisions and for the better. I feel like I kind of have a little more of a say here than anywhere previously and it has just been a good fit. I feel like I finally found a good home and this is the best position I have been in during my Cup career.”

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO HAVE ALL THESE FELLOW FORD DRIVERS ON THE TRACK WITH YOU TO BE ABLE TO WORK WITH? “It is going to be nice because I haven’t been a part of a group like that or those meetings that take place for quite some time. It has been super awesome that everyone at Ford has been so open and welcoming. Whether it is in the simulator or working with everyone at Ford throughout the process, and Roush Yates Engines, it has all been so cool. I think we were the second-best Clash qualifying car for Ford, so that was pretty cool for such a little team. Hopefully we can do the same here in 500 qualifying.”

WHAT IS THE ENERGY LIKE? “After the Clash, I feel like a lot of guys that have been there for a while saw that we could do this and be competitive and run well. I am super thankful and excited that Rick offered me this and an opportunity to be in a Cup Series car for a little bit longer.”


RILEY HERBST, No. 15 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW DO YOU FIND OUT WHAT THE NEW CARS WILL DO IN THE DRAFT?  “I think there’s a little bit of, at least from my sense of working with the Stewart-Haas guys on practice day to kind of understand how we should line up and push.  I feel like it’s gonna be fairly similar for the Fords for sure, and the Toyotas are gonna be different as well, but we don’t really know so the biggest thing is to see how we qualify tonight.  It’s kind of gonna play it by ear for us on the 15 team for sure, but we’re gonna work with the Stewart-Haas guys more than anything, just kind of line up our bumpers and kind of see who they want to work with and go from there.”

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC THAT THIS RACE HAS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SKILL SET?  HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT ASPECT?  “I think it’s an interesting topic for sure, but from my standpoint, it’s a little bit different.  I know we’ll have a really fast car, but, again, I’m trying to have the same mindset that I had last year on the plate tracks and that’s to learn every lap and hopefully finish the 500 miles on Sunday better than how I started.  Try to gain more respect like I did at Talladega and just kind of make my name more comfortable around these Cup guys that I look up to and idolize, and just kind of go from there.  Obviously, I’m a race car driver and I enter the race to win the race, but my main objective and my main priority is to hoist the trophy on Saturday night.  My Cup starts, this just happened to be the Daytona 500, which is The Great American Race which is a childhood dream, but to keep the perspective and continue to learn and continue to grow as a race car driver.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT OTHER RACES YOU’LL BE DOING?  “It’s three more after this, but I haven’t even really been told yet.  They haven’t been finalized.  There’s a lot of moving parts between the Rick Ware guys and the Stewart-Haas guys, and see how the schedules line up, so hopefully later on they’ll be sprinkled throughout the year.”

IS IT EASIER RUNNING THE CUP RACE THAN XFINITY BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR IN THE 500?  “A little bit, but I think that the talent is just so much higher in the Cup Series than the Xfinity Series, so it’s more of me being patient and playing the long game and just trying to learn and understand the field and just trying to be there at the end is the biggest thing I can say.”

THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR IS THE DIFFERENCE.  “For sure.  The guys on Sunday are racing on Sunday for a reason.  They’re the best in the world at driving stock cars, so it’s just cool to lace them up with them and just try to learn from them and race with them.” 

WHAT DID THAT DO FOR YOU TO FINISH 10TH IN THE 500 LAST YEAR?  “It gave me a lot of confidence and made me understand more about how to plate race and about biding my time and being there at the end.  I want to run all the laps and in order to finish well you have to finish the race, so that’s kind of my mindset and we’ll see how this race unfolds starting tonight and see how the week unfolds.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE XFINITY SEASON AND BEING A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?  “That’s our goal on the 98 team.  I’ve never been more excited for a racing season to start.  The amount of confidence I have is the highest it’s ever been in my racing career.  I’m excited for the Xfinity Series to get here, to hop in my car and to go race.  I think we can go be a contender week in and week out and hopefully make it to Phoenix and battle for the big trophy.”

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO FINALLY GET THAT FIRST WIN?  “It was everything.  That win took so much weight off of my shoulders and being able to say that we did it and now focusing on the future to try to go get more, and, like I said, be a contender, lead more laps, win more races, win more stages and be there at the end.”

HOW DO YOU LOOK BACK ON THAT WIN?  “I don’t know.  There were a lot of emotions pouring out of me thinking back and looking back on it, but I think most of it was just pent-up frustration from the trying and the failing and then the trying and trying over and over again, so to finally do it and have the opportunity to stand on the competition’s neck and to win the race by that big of a margin, I think, says how hard I’ve been working towards it, how hard Stewart-Haas has stood behind me and continue to help me grow as a race car driver and it’s cool to see.  Hopefully, we can go get more this year, whether it be by 15 seconds or a photo finish.  We’ll have to see how the future goes, but I’m excited for the future.”

Ford Performance PR