Race Weekend Central

Justin Haley Scores 1st Win at Gateway Motorsports Park

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After coming up short several times this season, Justin Haley finally parked it in Victory Lane in the Camping World Truck Series.

The Winamac, Ind. native held off a hard charge from Todd Gilliland and Johnny Sauter to win the Eaton 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park on Saturday night (June 23), his first career victory.

“I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid,” Haley told FS1. “Every time you start doubting yourself, you get in a situation like this. I’m about to cry, man, that was amazing.”

Prior to the race, Haley had been in the top three for three of Sauter’s four wins this year but always came up short to his GMS Racing teammate.

“I raced my heart out,” Haley said. “That’s all I’ve worked for my whole life.”

Haley grabbed the lead from Noah Gragson on a restart with eight laps to go in the race. He overdrove the car into Turn 1 but escaped the turn with the top spot after Gragson and Gilliland collided.

The last seven laps were the only ones that Haley led all night.

The race had many comers and goers. Polesitter Grant Enfinger and Christian Eckes battled hard for the first few laps before Enfinger eventually powered by to take the lead.

Ben Rhodes qualified fifth for the race but had to start the race at the rear after going to a backup truck. A few laps into the initial start, Rhodes had a tire going down and pitted under green flag conditions, losing a lap in the process.

The first caution came out on lap 21 when Jordan Anderson lost power. Eckes led a pack of trucks down pit road under the caution to get off strategy from the leader.

Enfinger overpowered Gragson on the restart and cruised to the stage one win, which ended under caution.

Gilliland was on the inside of Dalton Sargeant in a battle for 12th when his No. 4 truck drifted up into Sargeant’s No. 25. Sargeant’s tire went down a few turns later, and his truck slammed into the outside wall with three laps to go in the stage.

Gragson, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek and Haley rounded out the top five in stage one.

Enfinger gave up the lead when he pitted during the stage break, and a pit stop of over 23 seconds lost him eight spots in the pits. Eckes and the six other trucks that pitted with him earlier took over the top spots, while Enfinger restarted in 15th.

Eckes fended off Sauter at the start of stage two and set sail. Enfinger climbed back up to eighth place but stalled out there.

The caution flew again with five to go in stage two when Crafton’s truck lost power and came to a stop on the track. The second stage ended under caution as well, and Eckes picked up the first stage win of his two-start CWTS career. Sauter, Gilliland, Gragson and Brett Moffitt rounded out the top five in the stage.

Gragson took the lead from his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate when he beat Eckes out of the pits during the stage break. Gragson cleared Eckes on the restart, while Eckes drifted back to fourth.

The night ended early for Eckes, when Stewart Friesen got loose and drifted up into the 17 year old, sending the No. 46 into the outside wall.

On the next restart on lap 81, Moffit stole the lead from Gragson and drove away from the No. 18 truck.

The yellow flag flew again on lap 99 when Friesen spun into the inside wall after contact from Sauter, who had been trying to get around Friesen for several laps. Sauter came up into Friesen and spun him down the backstretch.

“I hate that I got in the [No.] 52 there earlier tonight, I made a mistake,” Sauter told FS1 after the race. “I got loose, and I got hooked on him, I couldn’t get off.”

The field came down pit road during the caution, but Moffitt’s crew was unable to get the fuel can to unload. Moffitt had to come back down pit road a second time to fill the truck up with gas. Gragson inherited the lead after Moffit’s pit troubles.

Gragson cleared Nemechek on the restart and built up a strong lead. With 46 laps to go, Nemechek was riding in the top five when he blew an engine and laid oil down on the track.

Justin Fontaine slid on the oil and spun into the outside wall. Tate Fogleman also slid on the oil, which took him right into Fontaine’s parked truck. Fogleman limped away from the wreck before sitting down on the track and getting medical attention on his leg. The wreck brought out the red flag.

After a lengthy cleanup, the race finally started again with 36 laps to go. Gragson held the lead, but didn’t get away from Haley.

Through the numerous cautions, Rhodes got his lap back and worked his way back into the top five. Rhodes was battling Moffitt for fifth place, and the two made contact, sending both into the wall to bring out the caution with 28 laps to go.

Haley again stayed right with Gragson on the restart with 24 to go. Enfinger’s strong night ended when he shredded a tire with 21 to go, but the incident didn’t draw a yellow flag. Enfinger cut another tire nine laps later, and the caution flew for debris this time.

The race restarted with eight to go, and Haley initially got the jump on Gragson. Haley sailed it too deep into Turn 1, and it seemed like his race was lost, but then KBM teammates Gragson and Gilliland collided. The allowed Haley to keep the lead and dropped Gragson to seventh.

The caution came out on the backstretch of that lap for debris. Gragson had to pit during the caution and give up his shot at the win as his right rear tire had started to go down from the contact with Gilliland.

The final restart of the night came with two laps to go in regulation. Sauter initially got the edge on his GMS Racing teammate Haley using the inside line with a strong push from Moffitt. But Moffitt bumped Sauter in the corner, causing him to wiggle and lose momentum. Jesse Little bumped Moffitt as a part of the chain reaction, sending the No. 16 spinning through the grass.

The green flag stayed out, and Haley rode off to the checkered flag.

Up next for CWTS is Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night (June 29).

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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