Not many NASCAR fans were expecting the announcement that Justin Haley is set to leave Kaulig Racing for Rick Ware Racing after the 2023 Cup Series season.
After a chaotic NASCAR Cup Series silly season a year ago, things were beginning to look as though they would be relatively mundane throughout 2023 for the 2024 campaign.
While an announcement from Rick Ware Racing may not be what fans would consider a blockbuster move, Thursday’s news certainly generated some serious attention.
Justin Haley, who is in only his second season of full-time Cup Series competition behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing, confirmed that he will not be back with Matt Kaulig’s team in 2024 and that he is set to join Rick Ware Racing on a full-time basis.
The move should certainly bring a sense of stability to Rick Ware’s team, given the fact that their lone full-time driver, Cody Ware, ended up getting arrested earlier this year. Through the first 20 races of the 2023 season, eight drivers have spent time behind the wheel of the team’s No. 15 Ford, and eight have spent time behind the wheel of the team’s No. 51.
But does the move make any sense for Justin Haley and his NASCAR future?
Haley made the move that he felt was going to be best to shore up his future. Let’s not forget that last season, he didn’t know whether or not he was going to be replaced by Kyle Busch. Now without a contract for 2024, he didn’t want to risk ending up without a contract to compete.
Additionally, the 24-year-old Winamac, Indiana native made mention of Rick Ware Racing’s alliance with RFK Racing. Given the fact that his new contract is said to be a multi-year deal, could he potentially be setting himself up for a bigger move to RFK Racing down the road, given their recent resurgence?
If that is his long-term goal, then he had to make that decision when he did and take advantage of the opportunity. While the jokes about him “killing his career” and being destined to run 30th or lower ever week for a back marker team ran rampant on social media, this is quite an interesting move to say the least.
As for Kaulig Racing, now they have a decision to make. Who will replace Haley behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet next year?
If Shane van Gisbergen is serious about becoming a full-time Cup Series driver, perhaps this opening could play to his advantage. Kaulig Racing may not be a powerhouse, but they are a competitive team with cars capable of running at the front at a variety of race tracks.