In the middle of summer, Justin Haley made what many felt was a shocking move and signed with Rick Ware Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, giving up his ride with Kaulig Racing after just two full seasons behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet.
Given Rick Ware Racing's technical alliance with RFK Racing, many came to view the move as Haley potentially positioning himself within the Ford camp as the top candidate to replace Brad Keselowski when he eventually retires.
Still, that doesn't appear to be anytime soon, and now Haley is set to compete for arguably the slowest team in the garage.
What hasn't been confirmed, however, is which car Justin Haley will drive during the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Cody Ware had driven the No. 51 Ford for the team full-time prior to his April arrest and suspension, while the No. 15 Ford was once again shared by multiple drivers throughout the year. Ware drove the No. 51 Ford full-time in 2022 as well, and when he competed in 32 of 36 races in 2021, he drove the No. 51 car in 31 of them.
Ware was recently reinstated and could thus technically end up returning to the team for the 2024 season, but that remains speculation at this point.
Even then, his role as a full-time driver is not guaranteed with Haley's signing, and Rick Ware Racing not running a shared entry would be a surprise. That being said, they have not yet confirmed any drivers other than Haley for 2024, so it is not out of the question.
Perhaps the reason for the lack of confirmation of Haley's car number is as simple as the fact that he could theoretically end up driving both cars during the 2024 season, depending on the position of each team in the owner standings.
Rick Ware Racing are in a position where they are trying to finish in the top 33 in the owner standings with both entries to avoid giving NASCAR the ability to repossess their charters.
While they avoided that situation in 2023, even with finishes of 34th and 35th place in consecutive seasons and three straight finishes outside of the top 33 for the No. 15 team, there are no guarantees that NASCAR will continue to not act if the team cannot improve.
The addition of Haley and their new alliance with RFK Racing, plus their use of Roush Yates Engines, were said to be three key indicators of their commitment to improvement and thus three reasons why NASCAR opted against repossessing at least one of their charters after another disappointing season in 2023.
With Live Fast Motorsports no longer competing full-time after selling their charter to Spire Motorsports, Rick Ware Racing will need to make big improvements just to avoid finishing in 35th and 36th place in the owner standings -- the bottom two spots. Having Haley available to drive either car, if need be, could prove paramount.