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Justin Haley’s LA Spark Continues with Dominant Qualifying Run

Justin Haley and Los Angeles has been quite the combination after Saturday’s Busch Light Clash qualifying (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

LOS ANGELES – There may be a basketball team known as the Sparks in Los Angeles, but Justin Haley has found some spark in the LA Memorial Coliseum.

One of last year’s top contenders in the Busch Light Clash set a qualifying time of 13.413 seconds, good enough to be the fastest man in Southern California and the pole sitter for Heat Race No. 1.

Haley’s top speed was set in the first half of qualifying. Therefore, he had to sit and wait as NASCAR’s elite couldn’t cut the mustard.

This includes the likes of Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron, who’ll lead the field to green in Heats 2-4 respectively.

Reigning Busch Light Clash and Cup Series champion Joey Logano’s run was only good enough for 17th overall.

Logano was the final qualifier. Once the run concluded, Haley was embraced by his Kaulig Racing teammate, AJ Allmendinger, as some of the crowd were chanting “Haley” in support of a job well done.

“We fired off last year and we were pretty good in practice. But I felt like I wasn’t getting the full potential out of the car. Obviously in qualifying, our lap was just dominant,” said Haley after qualifying. “I feel pretty confident about where we are. Great place to start the season.

“I’m not sure why we’re so good here. I wish we had that much talent at all the other races, but I’m pretty thankful.”

Out of the 36 drivers entered in the Clash, only Ty Gibbs didn’t made a qualifying attempt following a fire coming from the inside of his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota during practice.

An unideal Saturday for Cup rookie Ty Gibbs (Photo: Michael Donohue | The Podium Finish).

Likewise, Ryan Blaney’s lap was disallowed after going backwards due to a mistake in Turn 3 on his opening lap, relegating him to 35th overall.

Moving forward, making the main event is key as Haley hopes to be one of 27 drivers competing in the 150-lap main event. In his case, he hopes to bounce back from last year after contact from Kyle Larson dashed his aspirations of a great finish.

Not long after the incident, both men carried on with their business. Thus, no personal vendetta between them as they’re friends when it’s all set and done.

“Right after the race, I went up to (Larson) and had a conversation. He said that he messed up and I said, ‘Cool.’ That was it,” Haley said regarding his incident with Larson. “No reason to hold any grudge. We’re good friends.”

No secret, Haley hasn’t had the greatest time at Martinsville, which shares some characteristics with the temporary quarter-mile oval. In fact, it’s his worst track on the NASCAR Cup Series tour.

However, the 23-year-old has a knack at the coliseum that he can’t even put into details as to why he’s been that good each time he hits the circuit. More astonishing is that Haley isn’t told what’s been done to the No. 31 Celsius Chevrolet Camaro.

That’s just not part of the Kaulig Racing mantra for him to know, so he enters a race weekend cold turkey.

“They do not let me know any details on setup. Chris Rice wants me to drive the race car,” Haley commented. “It’s good and bad, but I would assume we’re close on last year.”

Fortunately for Haley, the track characteristics is the same as last year no matter how the conditions changes as Sunday’s race will unfold at night instead of the afternoon like last year.

“I would say it’s the same,” said Haley. “We were going pretty fast and I don’t think I noticed anything different.”

Haley speaking with the press after qualifying fastest overall (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish).

With racing in Haley’s mind, not having to know what goes down in the shop has some perks. With the event being so unique, there’s nothing to lose but leaving SoCal with tremendous bragging rights.

“We’re just out here not points racing and putting it all on the line. It’s definitely a different mentality and I think the heat format is pretty cool,” Haley explained. “I still haven’t lost a heat race and I don’t want to jinx myself, but I won both of them last year. I want to keep that streak going. Tomorrow is going to be a long day and I’m up for it.”

Live coverage of Sunday’s Busch Light Clash begins at 5:00 p.m. ET on FOX with four heat races as the top-five from each heat advancing to the main event.

Following that, two Last Chance Qualifiers will determine six more spots with one provisional (given to the highest ranked driver from last year who had yet to qualify) rounding out the 27-car lineup.

The 150-lap odyssey is scheduled to commence at 8:00 p.m. ET with one racer exiting as the King of LA.

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content. With two National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. Not only that, expect my social media filled with references nobody will understand, especially Licorice Pizza.

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