LONG POND, Pa. — Justin Haley continued his stellar roll in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards on Friday evening, storming to his third win in his last three starts after dominating the second half of the ModSpace 150 at Pocono Raceway.
Haley took the lead on a lap 33 restart, powering by his GMS Racing NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teammate Kaz Grala, and never looked back again en route to his third-career ARCA win and second of the season.
However, it wasn’t quite as easy as the box score might appear, as Haley had to hold off a furious rally by June Pocono winner Riley Herbst in the final laps.
Herbst took second coming to four to go and erased a 2.889-second deficit to knock on Haley’s back bumper at the white flag, but the Winimac, Indiana native was just able to hang on to capture the checkered flag.
“That was wild there,” Haley said in victory lane. “Obviously, we raced my teammate over there at GMS, the 41 (Grala) really hard on that restart. Clean air is king in these ARCA cars here at Pocono.”
“This is an amazing result. They called me up on Wednesday … I rolled out of bed, brought my seat over and here we are. The right front started going (away) a little bit, but that happens when you’re going 200 (miles per hour) on a flat track. Hell of an effort by these boys. My third win in a row; I can’t ask for more. It’s as good for me as it is for them.”
A rain shower roughly 30 minutes before the scheduled green flag time delayed the start of the race for two hours.
After five laps were run to start the race under green/yellow conditions to complete track drying in Turn 3, Grala led the field to full speed on the sixth round and quickly pulled out to the point over fellow front row starter Justin Haley.
However, the early men on the move were Dalton Sargeant and Sheldon Creed. Sargeant started 10th and cracked the top five after just one green flag lap, while Creed moved from the tail of the field to 11th in just 10 laps after missing his in-line time for qualifying earlier in the day.
As Grala led out front, strategy began on lap 24 when Riley Herbst pitted from third, becoming the first of the leaders to make his required trip to pit road for service.
Haley and Zane Smith followed a lap later, while Grala dove off the race track on lap 26 for his stop just moments before the first caution flag of the race flew for the stricken car of John Ferrier, who lost a left-front tire, hit the wall and sustained race-ending damage as a result.
While Sargeant, who had yet to pit, inherited the lead at that point, it was short-lived as Grala was able to stay out and reassume the lead just two laps later before a restart on lap 33.
That restart proved valuable for Haley, who used a power play to rocket ahead of Grala and into the lead, quickly opening up a gap of more than a second as Grala faded into the clutches of Zane Smith. Smith would eventually overhaul Grala and move into the runner-up spot on lap 39.
It took Smith 11 more laps to chew into Haley’s second and a half lead, but with 10 to go, the California young gun finally began to make some headway. He cut the lead down to under one second at that benchmark, but didn’t count on Herbst ‘s late-race rally.
What was 2.8 seconds for Herbst after passing Smith with under five to go was cut in half in one lap and trimmed to a car length at the white flag, but the Las Vegas teenager just ran out of time to make a play for the win.
“Everyone back at the shop gave me a great car to compete with today, but I messed up a couple times and threw away the race on the restart,” Herbst lamented after coming .434 of a second short. “I blew the corner over in (Turn) 3 … that’s what cost us a couple laps there (fighting) with the 77 (Sargeant). All the guys worked hard to get me here and I just came up short today.”
“We were super far back of the 55 (Smith) and the 78 (Haley), but I was able to finally blow the doors off of the 55 and run the 78 down because our General Tires were hooked up all day. We had one four-tire pit stop all day and that’s all we needed.”
However, it wasn’t quite enough for Herbst to complete the Pocono ARCA sweep, something he was visibly frustrated about afterwards.
“In the end, (second) sucks. Winning’s a lot more fun.”
Smith, Grala and Sargeant completed the top five.
Creed came home sixth after starting from the rear, ahead of Gus Dean, points leader Austin Theriault, Noah Gragson and Natalie Decker.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…