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Haley, entering his second fulltime season with Kaulig Racing, posted the fastest average lap speed (67.099 mph) in Saturday’s qualifying session for Sunday’s preseason Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
With the top speed, Haley will start on the pole in the first of four 25-lap heat races Sunday afternoon which will determine the starting lineup for the 150-lap main event on the ¼-mile oval.
“I felt like we had a pretty good No. 31 Chevy in practice. I just felt like I wasn’t getting the full potential out of the race car, and then obviously in qualifying, our lap was just dominant,” Haley, 23, said.
“I feel pretty confident about where we are. It’s a good place to start the season. I’m not sure why we’re so good here. I wish I had this much talent at all of the races, but I’m pretty thankful.
“It’s pretty cool to get Kaulig Racing their first NASCAR Cup Series pole; my first pole as a driver in my second year here.”
A contract year
Haley struggled in his first season with Kaulig, finishing 22nd in the series standings with three top-five and four top-10 finishes. His best finish was third, which he accomplished twice – at Darlington in the spring and Texas in the fall.
Haley is in a contract year and knows he’ll need better performance to retain his ride in NASCAR’s top series.
He also knows the Kaulig organization is a young one in the Cup Series and 2023 will be the first time the organization will have two drivers compete fulltime for the series championship.
“We’re a young team. Matt Kaulig is building this thing from the ground up. He didn’t buy a race team that was already pre-built. He’s done it all from the ground up and you have to respect that about him,” Haley said.
“We have to earn our name in the sport, earn my name in the sport. I have to feel like I belong, which has been tough for me. It was a very humbling year last year trying to figure out if I belong at the top or not.
“Yeah, it’s been hard, but having moments like this solidifies it a little bit more.”
By the end of the 2022 season, Haley believes his No. 31 team was running much more consistently and he was beginning gain the attention of his fellow competitors.
“I think the biggest thing last year was just respect. I think towards the end of the year, I gained a lot of respect from other drivers. I started talking with a lot of them a lot more,” he said.
“It’s hard being a new driver in a top series. It’s tough, but I kind of feel like I’ve earned that respect now and I’m pretty good friends with a lot of the other drivers.”