Justin Haley, Driver of the No. 51 Walmart Health and Wellness Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● After looping the streets of downtown Chicago, the NASCAR Cup Series treks to the Pocono Mountains for Sunday’s Great American Getaway 400 presented by VisitPA.com. The 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped Pocono (Pa) Raceway first hosted NASCAR on Aug. 4, 1974, nearly 50 years ago. The first Ford driver to visit victory lane at the “Tricky Triangle” was Bill Elliott on June 9, 1985. Six weeks later, Elliott won the second Cup Series visit to Pocono to complete that year’s sweep for Ford.

● Justin Haley, driver of the No. 51 Walmart Health and Wellness Ford Mustang Dark Horse, looks to become the 25th driver to win for Ford at Pocono in his fourth Cup Series start at the track. He has a best Cup Series finish of 21st at Pocono, earned in 2021. In three Xfinity Series races, Haley has a best finish of ninth, earned in his first series start at the track in 2019.

● The Cup Series’ return to Pocono lands just shy of a year since Haley announced that he would join Rick Ware Racing (RWR) fulltime beginning in 2024. Since then, Haley has equaled or bettered the team’s previous best effort at eight different tracks, and earned RWR’s best finish on a non-superspeedway-type track with his ninth-place finish at Darlington on May 12. He matched that with another top-10 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois on June 2. Two weeks later, Haley said he’s committed to owner Rick Ware and his team for as long they will have him – “Without Rick, I wouldn’t even be in the Cup Series right now. Whatever Rick wants my future to be, you know, if that’s for me to stay for 5 to 10 years, I’ll stay for 5 to 10 years just because he gave me the opportunity when no one else would. I kind of owe everything to him.”

● In 2017, Haley pulled double duty at the Tricky Triangle. He started the weekend by winning his third ARCA Menards Series race and second of the season after starting second and leading 28 laps. The next day, he drove to a 10th place finish in his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start at Pocono. He returned the following year to finish fifth in the Truck Series race.

● Haley is fresh off a 16th-place finish in last weekend’s Chicago Street Race. It was his sixth top-20 in the last nine races and moved the No. 51 team to 29th in the driver standings.

Cody Ware, Driver of the No. 15 Jacob Construction Ford Mustang Dark Horse

● Cody Ware returns to the No. 15 Jacob Construction Ford Mustang Dark Horse for his third start of 2024. He has four previous starts at Pocono with a best finish of 25th, earned in 2021.

● Ware’s first start this season came at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 21. The 28-year-old driver started 34th and steadily worked his way toward the top-20 throughout the race. He was on pace for a top-20 finish when the leaders made contact on the final lap and collected several cars in the aftermath, including Ware’s. He took the checkered flag in 24th for his second-best career result at Talladega.

Rick Ware Racing Notes

● The Progressive American Flat Track (AFT) series wrapped its 10th event of the season last weekend at the DuQuoin (Ill.) Mile. AFT Singles rider and defending class champion Kody Kopp finished second by .001 of a second to earn his ninth podium of the year. He holds onto the top spot in the championship standings by 32 points. Mission SuperTwins rider Briar Bauman just missed out on a podium finish with a fourth-place result and is currently fourth in the standings with two podium finishes, including a win at the Ventura Short Track in Chico, California.

● 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, Progressive American Flat Track and FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX), where RWR won the 2022 SX2 championship with rider Shane McElrath.

Justin Haley, Driver Q&A

Why is Pocono so “tricky?”

“I’ve really enjoyed racing at Pocono in the past. I’ve had really good finishes there – a win, and also some pretty big hits. There are just so many things that it takes to be good there. Track position will be important, as it always is, but we’re really going to have to try to get the car driving well in every corner. They’re all different, so you know that there’s probably going to be one or two corners where the car isn’t doing exactly what you want. We’ve also seen Pocono turn into a strategy race, which has helped us at a few other places this year. It’ll just come down to making the right calls and having a fast car. The Rick Ware cars have been really strong lately, so we just need to keep that going.”

It’s been about a year since you announced your decision to move to Rick Ware Racing. Is there anything that stands out when you reflect on that time?

“I think a lot of people were confused and didn’t understand why I was making the decision. I knew why. I think that’s become pretty clear by now, that in my conversations with Rick (Ware) and Robby (Benton), they gave me what I needed to know improvement was coming. They put in the work to invest in people and commit to being better, and I’ve done the same for them. It’s a team and we all work together to find that success. We’re a small group but we’re competing right alongside teams with a lot more resources than we have, and it’s working. I owe everyone in that shop a lot and I’m glad I can go out and give them the finishes that they work hard for.”

Cody Ware, Driver Q&A

In your last two starts, you really focused on getting comfortable in the car and trying to better your previous performances. Is that the goal for this weekend?

“I think so. It takes a couple of laps to get refamiliar with the car, especially at a place like Pocono. You carry so much speed down the straightaways and really have to hit your marks, so the quicker I can get reacclimated, the quicker I can give the team feedback that can help us keep the car dialed in throughout the race. The team has been doing really well lately. They’ve been showing a lot of speed and I’m excited to see what we’re able to do on a bigger track like Pocono.”

Other than only having only three turns, what makes Pocono such a unique track?

“The shape is certainly unique, but having three very different corners with long straightaways on top of everything else that makes a race tough can lead to a long day. Your car will never handle perfectly, but if it’s close enough and you can get off of each corner the way you need to, your biggest battle is probably going to be dirty air or whatever else is going on around you.”

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