Rick Ware Racing: Justin Haley/Riley Herbst Daytona 500 Advance

Event Overview

● Thursday, Feb. 15: Bluegreen Vacations Duel (twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500)

● Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

● Sunday, Feb. 18: 66th annual Daytona 500 (first of 36 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races in 2024)

● Time/TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Tree Top / Fraternal Order of Eagles / Jacob Ford Mustang

● Justin Haley, driver of the No. 51 Tree Top / Fraternal Order of Eagles / Jacob Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing (RWR), will make his fourth start in the Great American Race when the NASCAR Cup Series takes the green flag Sunday for the 66th running of the Daytona 500. Haley finished 13th in his first Daytona 500 in February 2020, his best finish in the season-opening points-paying race. He preceded that outing with a victory in the July 2019 Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, which was his first career win in the series in just his third start.

● During Wednesday night’s qualifying session, Haley was 30th quickest to earn a 15th-place starting spot in tonight’s second Bluegreen Vacations Duel. The twin 60-lap, 150-mile races will set the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

● Haley is viewed by his competitors as a master at superspeedways. He owns four superspeedway wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Daytona in August 2020 and 2021, and Talladega in April and October 2020. In 10 Xfinity Series starts at Daytona, he posted top-20 finishes in all but two races.

● The 2024 season marks a significant change in Haley’s career path. He left Kaulig Racing after five seasons to join RWR, which also marks the first time Haley raced for a manufacturer other than Chevrolet in his NASCAR career. The switch to the Roush Yates-powered Ford Mustangs may just be the advantage Haley needs to revisit victory lane, as the Ford camp has secured the win at Daytona in four of the last six races.

● Haley also began the 2024 season with a new crew chief in Chris Lawson. Lawson was previously paired with Zane Smith in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, where the pair earned six wins over two seasons and claimed the 2022 Truck Series championship. Lawson was also atop the pit box for Smith in last year’s Daytona 500, when they earned a 13th-place result.

● Haley and Lawson turned heads in their first outing with RWR during the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 3. The 24-year-old driver qualified 10th for the feature event and ran within the top-10 for the majority of the 151-lap race. Haley was working his way back to the front after the halfway break when a fuel pump issue ended his run 15 laps short of the checkered flag.

● In the effort to find success at Daytona, Haley and longtime partner, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles,are continuing their relationship in 2024. When Haley earned his first Cup Series victory at Daytona in 2019, it was beind the wheel of the No. 77 Fraternal Order of Eagles-branded car with Spire Motorsports. They were also with Haley for his three Truck Series wins in 2018 at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, Canadian Tire Motosport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

● The Fraternal Order of Eagles (F.O.E) is an international non-profit organization uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope. The F.O.E. donates more than $10 million a year to local communities, fundraisers, charities and more. As part of its philosophy, the F.O.E. gives back 100 percent of monies raised in the form of grants. Fundraisers are conducted for eight major charities, including kidney, heart, diabetes, cancer and spinal cord injury funds, a children’s fund, memorial foundation and the Golden Eagle Fund.

● Also riding along on the No. 51 at Daytona are Tree Top and Jacob Construction. Tree Top is a farmer-owned cooperative owned by nearly 1,000 apple and pear growers. The cooperative was founded in 1960 in the heart of Washington’s apple country. Tree Top has led the way in premium-quality juices and apple sauce. With its fruit expertise and trusted sources of fruit, it now produces the widest array of fruit-based products and solutions for consumers and for a majority of the world’s leading food and beverage manufacturers. Tree Top operates seven production facilities near the fruit in Washington, Oregon and California to create healthful fruit products made from simple ingredients to the delight of consumers around the world.

● Jacob is a nationally certified, WBENC, woman owned, multifaceted construction firm with a focus on construction, design-build services, structural concrete and technology.

Riley Herbst, Driver of the No. 15 Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford Mustang

● Riley Herbst returns to RWR behind the wheel of the No. 15 Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford Mustang after a 10th-place showing in the 2023 Daytona 500. Herbst started the race 38th and successfully avoided the typical Daytona mayhem in his Cup Series debut to earn his first of two top-10 finishes in four Cup Series starts last season.

● With his 10th-place finish, Herbst became the second driver to earn a top-10 in his Cup Series debut in the Daytona 500. He joined Terry Ryan, who made his debut in the 1976 Daytona 500 and finished sixth.

● During Wednesday night’s qualifying session, Herbst was 12th quickest to earn a sixth-place starting spot in tonight’s second Bluegreen Vacations Duel.

● The Las Vegas native also embarks on his fifth fulltime Xfinity Series season in 2024 and fourth with Stewart-Haas Racing. Herbst earned his first career Xfinity Series victory last year at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in dominating fashion. Though his first win came at an intermediate track, the 24-year-old Herbst has shown his strength on the wild-card superspeedways. He has two top-fives and four top-10s in nine Xfinity Series starts at Daytona, and one top-five and three top-10s at Talladega. His high mark at each track is a fourth-place finish, earned three times – August 2020 at Daytona, October 2021 at Talladega and February 2022 Daytona.

● Monster Energy Zero Sugar will adorn Herbst’s No. 15 Ford Mustang at Daytona. Based in Corona, California, Monster Energy is the leading marketer of energy drinks and alternative beverages. Refusing to acknowledge the traditional, the company supports the scene and sport. Monster Energy is a brand that believes in authenticity and the core of what its sports partnerships, athletes and musicians represent. More than a drink, it’s the way of life lived by athletes, sports, bands, believers and fans.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● Rick Ware has been a motorsports mainstay for more than 40 years. It began at age six when the third-generation racer began his driving career and has since spanned four wheels and two wheels on both asphalt and dirt. Competing in the SCCA Trans Am Series and other road-racing divisions led Ware to NASCAR in the early 1980s, where he finished third in his NASCAR debut – the 1983 Warner W. Hodgdon 300 NASCAR Grand American race at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. More than a decade later, injuries would force Ware out of the driver seat and into fulltime team ownership. In 1995, Rick Ware Racing was formed, and with wife Lisa by his side, Ware has since built his eponymous organization into an entity that fields two fulltime entries in the NASCAR Cup Series while simultaneously campaigning successful teams in the Top Fuel class of the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series, the NTT INDYCAR Series, Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX).

● In 2023, RWR enjoyed three NHRA Top Fuel wins with driver Clay Millican, two Progressive American Flat Track wins with rider Briar Bauman, and multiple WSX victories with riders Shane McElrath and Joey Savatgy coming off their 2022 WSX championship.

● The 2024 drag racing season unofficially kicked off last weekend in Bradenton, Florida, during the PRO Superstar Shootout, where Millican promptly set fast time in the first round of qualifying with an elapsed time of 3.688 seconds and a speed of 336.49 mph, and then remained atop the leaderboard by securing the No. 1 qualifying position. Millican advanced all the way to the final round of eliminations, a stout performance that highlighted an expanded role this season by longtime partner Parts Plus on the No. 51 Top Fuel Dragster, and the addition of NHRA veteran Nicky Boninfante as co-crew chief.

● In the first racing event of the 2024 season, Cody Ware scored a podium finish Jan. 20 on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile Daytona road course driving a Ligier JS P320 in the IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge LMP3 class. The following weekend, Ware and teammate Preston Pardus competed in the twin Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup races at Daytona.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

You’ve been really good at Daytona in previous years, and now you’re in the Ford Performance camp. Does that mean extra confidence as the RWR team continues to build its program?

“Yeah, I’ve told a lot of people that I’ve raced against the Fords for a long time. They have the best fuel mileage, the best strategy and the best teamwork and it has pissed me off for so long racing against them, so I’m excited to be in a Ford at Daytona. They qualify so fast – it’s been rare that Fords haven’t been dominant in qualifying at superspeedways, lately. I 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. They have crushed the other teams on fuel mileage, and now we’ve got an awesome new Ford Mustang Dark Horse, so I’m super excited to go down to Daytona and see what we’ve got.”

What makes you so good at the superspeedways, especially Daytona, where you got your first Cup Series win?

“I don’t know. I think there are a lot of things that impact how well you can be at a superspeedway. The organization and how they work, the driver relationship with the spotter, and things like that. For me, the situation this year is completely different other than me being in the driver’s seat. I think we’ll have to see how it goes, but I don’t really know that there is something you can pinpoint. I enjoy superspeedway racing and I’ve been fortunate to do really well. I feel really confident about what we can accomplish with Chris (Lawson, crew chief) and the work the team has put in, along with Ford. But yeah, I’m not sure what it is.”

A lot of changes happened at RWR over the offseason and that showed with your performance at the Clash in Los Angeles. Was there a different feeling in the shop after the Clash?

“There was definitely a good feeling, but we didn’t waste too much time on that with Daytona coming up. We saw we’re capable of running with some of the bigger teams. A lot has been put into the organization to improve. Some processes have changed back at the shop to make sure we have as much data as possible to prepare the car before we get to the track. If we can unload better, then we can learn more during practice, qualifying, the Duel. The offseason was a reset for RWR and there’s still work to be done, but I think we’re already showing that a change is happening and the effort is paying off.”

Riley Herbst, Driver Q&A

You have four Cup Series starts under your belt, but you’re not one of the guys looking to get that first win out of the way to lock into the Cup Series Playoffs. So, what is the goal for the Daytona 500 for you and the No. 15 Ford Mustang team?

“I think the goal is to just get some guys to trust me and not be the one getting in their way and causing trouble. I felt like that was my goal last year and we accomplished that at Talladega in the fall and in the Daytona 500 last year, so I’m trying to do the same thing again this year. Just learn with each lap and hopefully have some guys trust me, have my teammate at RWR, Justin Haley, and all of our Ford teammates trust me so we can work together and try to make something of it. I’m excited to get there, run every lap and be there at the end to kind of see where the cards fall.”

Will you be able to gain anything from the Xfinity Series race on Saturday to apply to Sunday’s race with the Cup Series guys?

“I think laps in the race pace at Daytona or any superspeedway kind of help me become a better plate racer and helps me understand the moves that are coming laps before they even happen. I remember how eye-opening it was last year when I was racing against all of these great stock car drivers in the Daytona 500. Watching these guys set up passes and make them happen laps before I would even attempt them. I think that’s the coolest thing to experience and the thing that I’m eager to learn more and more about to make myself a better racecar driver.”

Are you able to watch what those other guys are doing and understand how they made something work and why it worked in that moment, or is the success based on the circumstances?

“I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that’s why we always hear drivers saying do your homework. For me, that’s watching hours of film of onboard camera footage and the view from the Goodyear blimp shot. That overhead shot is honestly my favorite camera angle to watch for the superspeedway tracks to see how people create their runs, when the run starts and how they execute their passes.”