LONG POND, Pa. (July 28, 2017) — Three days before the race, Justin Haley had no idea he’d be racing in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards at Pocono Raceway. As it turned out, he’s glad he did, especially after winning the rain-delayed ModSpace 150 Friday afternoon in the No. 78 Mason Mitchell Motorsports Chevrolet.
“I got a call from Mason (Mitchell) Tuesday afternoon,” said Haley. “He told me to bring my seat over…we mounted it up Tuesday night, and here we are. Just so thankful we could piece it together so quickly.”
In the end, Haley had to work hard for it with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst in his rearview mirror over the last two laps.
“We knew he was coming,” Haley said. “My spotter Kevin Hamlin did a great job keeping my moral boosted but I spent a lot of time looking in the mirror those last few laps.”
Haley had to give it all he had to keep Herbst behind him.
“When you’re going 200 mph on a flat track you tend to burn off the right front (tire)…I was having to run the car hard to stay up front. Managing lapped traffic was challenging, and we fired off on a green race track. Fortunately, the General Tires were amazing.”
After Herbst cleared Zane Smith for second in the closing laps, he shaved a full second off the leader, catching Haley less than two laps from the finish. But where clean air means everything, Herbst could not find a way around the eventual winner. Herbst, in the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink-UFC Gym Toyota, had to settle for second, nearly a half-second back.
“Winning’s a lot more fun,” said Herbst, who won the spring race at Pocono.
“I messed up…I didn’t get going on a restart and lost all our momentum.”
Whatever Herbst lost in the beginning, he made up for it in the end.
“We got back up to fourth with 15 to go and everyone in front of us was getting really tight…I could wrap the bottom a lot better. Once we got by the 55 (Zane Smith) we had a clear shot at the 78…we needed another lap. I just want to thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. They bring great cars every week…that’s why we run up front. Second place…we’ll take it…go on to Winchester and try to get it done there.”
Smith finished third in the No. 55 Musselman’s BIG CUP Apple Sauce Toyota for Venturini Motorsports. For a time, and before Herbst passed him for second, Smith was running down the leader.
“We were running down the 78…I think I just went a little too hard and heated up the right front and got tight,” said a discouraged Smith. “We’re coming so close…it’s unreal. Honestly, it’s so annoying to not get a win. We wanted it for Musselman’s so bad. It’s been an up and down year to say the least, but we’re finally starting to get a hold of it.”
The race was initially delayed because of a hard rain that fell just before the scheduled start. After two hours-plus of track drying, the race started under caution before they went under green on the fifth lap. Kaz Grala, in the No. 41 ChargeCords.com Chevrolet for MDM Motorsports, won the General Tire pole and took off like a rocket at the onset, leading the first 26 laps of the 60-lap race. Then Dalton Sargeant took over under caution for two laps before Grala cycled back into the lead for the restart. Back under green, Haley got a great start on the inside and drove away from Grala, never to be challenged again until Herbst stepped up late in the going.
Grala finished fourth with Sargeant, in the No. 77 Big Tine Ford, trailing in fifth. Sheldon Creed was sixth ahead of Gus Dean in seventh. Championship points leader Austin Theriault finished eighth, with Noah Gragson in ninth. Natalie Decker finished a career-best 10th. Codie Rohrbaugh finished 11th, the last car on the lead lap.
The race was finished in one hour and six minutes as just two cautions for 11 laps slowed the pace.
Haley is now three for three in the win column in his last three ARCA starts going back to the Springfield mile dirt in 2016, also driving for Mason Mitchell Motorsports. Haley also won with MDM Motorsports at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this year.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in really good equipment,” Haley said. “It just says a lot for Mason Mitchell Motorsports…two starts there and two wins.”
The ARCA Racing Series travels to Winchester Speedway next for the Winchester ARCA 200 Sunday, August 6.
By: Don Radebaugh