It became a historic day at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday after the already rescheduled Coke Zero Sugar 400 was shortened by 33 laps due to rain.
With the lightning in the area, NASCAR called for the one-to-go sign and planned to restart the race. However, lightning struck within eight miles of the track, prompting a delay that turned into the eventual end of the race.
Justin Haley and Spire Motorsports were awarded the win – each of them capturing their first ever victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS).
“It’s absolutely a blessing,” Haley said in his post-race press conference. “It’s pretty incredible that I have so many great people around me that have given me this opportunity to come to this level and the stage that we’re performing on.”
Aside from it being one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history, there’s a lot to take in from the happenings at the track, Sunday.
Inside Justin Haley, Spire Motorsports’ Upset Win at Daytona
Spire Motorsports was a completely new team coming into the 2019 MENCS season. The team is a subsidiary of Spire Sports + Entertainment which represents several drivers and teams in NASCAR.
The team gained control of the former Furniture Row No. 78 team’s charter so that it could put a cup car on the track and is competing without a deal from an engine alliance with a major team.
“We don’t have a — we own our own motors, so we’re not in the wind tunnel,” Haley said after the race. “There’s nothing to it. The guys built the car and rolled a motor out that they’ve been running all year, and it was probably refreshed a few races ago. It’s not like we have any technical alliance or big Cup team motor anything.”
Haley said the only goal the team had Sunday was to bring the car home without any scratches on it.
Some reporters even went as far as to saying that team didn’t care if they got results or not.
Has to be. Spire bought the Furniture Row charter because it was worth a lot and could turn a profit just by fielding a backmarker car. The goal for them isn’t winning; they’re an agency that does sponsor deals for teams. And now they might win a race! https://t.co/aDcNZpj2Qu
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 7, 2019
I'm not suggesting that NASCAR's decisions are being influenced but this delay has political intrigue.
Spire 77 is essentially a cash grab — a sports agency buying a charter for the guaranteed value it provides, while running a minimum-effort car. It winning would be messy.
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverAW) July 7, 2019
Spire Motorsports Team Owner T.J. Puchyr contested those points.
“We want to compete with the big dogs,” Puchyr said. “That’s why we’re here, right? The messaging from the France family in my opinion for, I don’t know, the last 18 months is a good one. They’re trying to rebuild this thing. They’ve taken a ton of hits, right, but I’m also smart enough to know that this is their sandbox and we want to play in it.”
Puchyr said that he and his co-founder, Jeff Dickerson, took out a $6 million loan from the bank
“We’re all just trying to fight and claw every day and make it,” Puchyr said. “But it’s our passion, and we love it. You know, just trying to build something here that we can have, that we can go compete with the lions of the sport, the Hendricks and the Ganassis, the Penskes, the Stewart-Haases.”
Now, the Spire team has earned a MENCS win this season before both Chip Ganassi Racing and Stewart-Haas, among other successful teams in the industry.
The team, going into Saturday’s race, only had one finish inside the top 25 this season, and it was a P22 run at Daytona. They’re average finish in the first 17 races was P32.
On top of it, the win on Sunday was the first time the team has finished a race on the lead lap.
There was no chance for these guys to win at Daytona and they end up becoming just the fourth team to win a race this season, joining Joe Gibbs Racing (10 wins), Team Penske (five), and Hendrick Motorsports (two).
Since Haley is running full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he is ineligible to run for cup series points, however that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen for Spire.
The No. 77 team is 86 points out of the top 30 in owners points – which they would need to be inside of to make the playoffs with the win.
“I think there’s a way,” Puchyr said. “I think we have stuff in the pipeline. This is a big shot in the arm for them, but I mean, I think we’ve got some stuff in the works that people are going to be proud of. You know, I’d like to say more. I just can’t yet. We don’t have all the contracts done and we don’t have everything in place, but we’re going to try and get better here every day, bit by bit.”
Haley’s win is one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history and he exited Daytona as the third youngest winner in series history.
“I never even saw myself running a Cup race until I got a call a few months ago to do Talladega, and it’s just unreal,” Justin Haley said. “I don’t know how to feel.”