Indiana Native Justin Haley Turned Down Indy 500 Ride

By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. – The opportunity to run both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600, ‘The Double,’ is rare, and for some drivers, a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, one driver turned down that chance at racing history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, is Winamac, IN native Justin Haley.

Haley Chose to Stay Focused

Justin haley has been breaking out of his shell while campaigning for the nascar cup series all-star race fan vote.
Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin’ the Tires.

The Rick Ware Racing (RWR) driver could have had an Indy 500 ride, but he turned it down. Although the team that Haley competes for in the NASCAR Cup Series, RWR, does have a team in the NTT IndyCar Series, he didn’t say who the ride would have been with. Rather, he wants to keep the focus on his No. 51 Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

The decision to keep his focus to one series has allowed Haley to improve throughout his first 13 races with RWR. He scored the team’s first non-superspeedway top-10 finish, ninth place, at Darlington Raceway. Haley’s also improved the team’s average finish to inside the top-25.

“I’ve actually turned down one or two Indy 500 rides, which is surprising,” Haley stated. “I don’t feel like I’m quite ready for it yet, but I had an opportunity to run it a few years back and then I think one other time, so I don’t know – not quite yet. I’m not quite to the point in my career where I feel like that’s something I want to tackle. 

“Obviously, it would be fun being from Indiana and growing up and watching the Indy 500. I just feel like I want to focus on what I’m doing right now. I don’t need to venture too far off. I feel like the guys later in their career want to go do fun stuff like that, but for me it’s just kind of (keeping) all (of my) focus on the Cup Series.”

‘The Double’ Requires the Right Situation

In addition to keeping his focus on one series, Haley doesn’t feel like he’s ready to tackle ‘The Double’ when compared to Kyle Larson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is attempting the feat for the first time in an entry fielded with Arrow McLaren. The 2019 Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner at Daytona Int’l Speedway conceded that the backing Larson has certainly makes the 2021 Cup champion’s efforts easier.

“I’m nowhere close to [running ‘The Double]’ on any front,” Haley admitted. “There’s just a lot to go into it, right? Larson’s got Hendrick and McLaren, two worldwide respected race teams doing it for him, which makes it a lot easier. Everything he runs he just shows up and drives and everything is gold. I’d have to probably get in a situation first in Cup that would take a little bit more off my hands than what I’m doing now. Then the situation would probably have to come (at the) right (time). There’s a lot to it.”

The right situation and right opportunity popped up for Larson this year. Over the years John Andretti, Kurt Busch, Davy Jones, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart have each made their own attempt at ‘The Double’ with various degrees of success. Gordon’s attempted the feat five times throughout his career, the most of any driver. Busch was the most recent driver to run auto racing’s marathon before Larson.

How Does One Determine When They Are Ready for ‘The Double’

Justin haley has been breaking out of his shell while campaigning for the nascar cup series all-star race fan vote.
Photo by NKP/Nigel Kinrade Photography

While some view ‘The Double’ as a feat that can be attempted at any time, Haley viewed it as a later career opportunity. That allows for years of accomplishments, skills, and talents to be built up over time. In his observation, Haley views that Larson is in a perfect position and point in time in his career to make a run at racing glory.

As for himself, the Ford Performance driver will wait to see where his career takes him. Currently, he’s in his third full season of Cup competition.

“I don’t know (how to determine whether I’m ready for ‘The Double),'” Haley admitted. “I mean, it’s just where you’re at in your career. I feel like my focus right now, especially where I’m at on the Cup side, is just trying to focus on that and run as best as possible. If you’re in Kyle Larson’s shoes, then you kind of have the world in front of you and you can do whatever you want. I will just see where [my] career takes [me].”

Although making a run at ‘The Double’ is not off the table, Haley is not interested in attempting it just yet.

 “No, it’s not (off the table),” Haley said. “We’ll have to talk (with Robby Benton, RWR President), but it hasn’t interested me too much yet.”

Larson is the sixth driver to attempt ‘The Double’ on the same day. It marks just the 12th time that it’s been attempted on the same day. To date only Stewart has completed all 1,100 miles of ‘The Double’ on the same day, finishing sixth and third in both races respectively in 2001.

Next on the horizon for Haley is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In three starts in the 600-mile race he has a best finish of 15th in last year’s running of the traditional Memorial Day Weekend Cup race.

The Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for Sunday, May 26 at 6:00 p.m. ET on FOX. The race will also be broadcast on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.

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