Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Pursuing first Xfinity title, for Justin Haley ‘there’s no letting up’

Only three drivers have ever won three consecutive NASCAR national series races at superspeedways — Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Justin Haley.

That’s it. That’s the list.

The Earnhardts got their victories in the NASCAR Cup Series while Haley’s trifecta of wins came as part of a breakout season in the Xfinity Series.

RELATED: Justin Haley driver page | 2021 Xfinity Series schedule

After a winless first year with Kaulig Racing in 2019, Haley proved himself to be a legitimate title contender in Year 2 with three wins, 10 top fives and 21 top 10s — all career highs. So we checked in with Haley to see what’s in store for the reigning Championship 4 driver in his third full-time season in Xfinity.

Learning the ropes on a recently developed team fielding established NASCAR veterans AJ Allmendinger and Ross Chastain, Haley emerged as a star — boosting the five-year-old organization to prominence among elite competition.

“Through trial and error, we have built this organization into a race-winning organization,” Haley told NASCAR.com. “Me, AJ and Ross put so much hard work and dedication into Kaulig to help build it into what it has become. Our engineers, crew chiefs and sponsors all do a phenomenal job.”

Haley enjoyed success, storming his way into the Championship 4 finale at Phoenix Raceway after putting together an impressive playoff run and securing the final transfer spot — culminating in an eighth-place finish in the Arizona desert. For a passionate competitor like Haley, it was not enough.

“We have overlooked every corner of our race team to try and figure out how we are going to be better this year,” said Haley, after finishing third in the 2020 series standings. “We are building good race cars, have a championship-caliber team and all the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly — there’s no letting up.”

As far as his weekly routine and focus, not much has changed from his days as a younger competitor climbing the national ranks.

“A big part of maintaining a high level of competition is just staying in shape physically,” said Haley. “Truthfully, the less I think about racing, usually the better I do. I joke around that I’ve gotten worse with age — for example, in K&N and ARCA I didn’t know any better, so I just jumped in the car and had to feel it out. It’s not always that way, but it’s nice not to overthink things.”

Haley says his “patience” allows him to be more focused on what he can control out on the track — especially on the high banks. The ability to loosen up and breathe easy is complemented by his trust in seasoned spotter Kevin Hamlin.

“I have always felt very comfortable at superspeedways,” said Haley. “Having a great spotter in Kevin Hamlin is always nice to have when we have worked together for such a long time to reach this level of comfort and confidence in each other.”

As far as NASCAR’s short tracks, intermediates and road courses, Haley believes they have the speed to reach Victory Lane at many of those, too.

“There are a lot of good tracks for us this year, a few that I can’t wait to get back to,” said Haley. “We have a lot of speed at road courses and superspeedways, but we have certainly talked about where we need to be better and we will do our best to get there.”

The 21-year-old driver turned down full-time Cup Series offers this offseason, electing to return to the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet for at least one more year.

RELATED: Haley inks one year deal, returns to Kaulig

With two full seasons under his belt and title hopes higher than ever, Haley is hoping the third time’s the charm.