Part-time dirt racer will pilot brand-new Elite Chassis built by three-time WSTC winner Nick Hoffman
At 23 years old, Justin Haley’s already contested his fair share of high-profile motorsports events. In one week, he checks another off his bucket list.
Haley, the NASCAR Cup Series full-timer from Winamac, IN, will join the Summit Racing Equipment UMP Modified roster for the first time and compete in the seventh annual World Short Track Championship at The Dirt Track at Charlotte next Thu-Sat, Oct. 27-29, aiming for the $4,000 grand prize in only his fourth Dirt Modified outing this year.
The former dirt racer’s fans have seen him race and win with the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds before, most notably taking home a gator trophy in the 2019 DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. But never has he turned competitive laps around the famed 4/10-mile oval of The Dirt Track, until now.
“I’ve been there the past few years watching, and I wanted to race, but just never could line-up the schedule,” Haley said. “I’m pretty excited to finally do it.”
Haley said the timing was just right this year. In the past, his NASCAR Truck Series and Xfinity Series commitments had taken his availability for the weekend, but 2022 has been different. Now a part of the NASCAR Cup Series full-time roster for Kaulig Racing, it’s freed-up his Fridays and Saturdays a bit, allowing him the time to compete in select dirt events.
Just in time for his event debut, Haley will pilot a brand-new Leaf Filter/Elite Chassis No. 99, built by three-time World Short Track champion of the division, Nick Hoffman.
“The on-track [performance] speaks for itself with how fast his cars are,” Haley said. “Everyone that gets an Elite usually wins and runs better than their previous equipment.”
The two were first introduced by fellow NASCAR regular and Elite racer Justin Allgaier at the 51st DIRTcar Nationals in February and struck a deal for a new car to be made in time for the fall racing calendar.
Though Hoffman will be watching from outside the fence this year as he continues to recover from a traumatic brain injury suffered in September, he will be on-site to help Haley and his other Elite customers with their rides as they take on one of the deepest fields in all 10 divisions.
“It’s cool for me; it’s like a new project,” Haley said. “It’s something that I’m excited to race, and I know that the car has the potential. So now, it’s down to me to find that potential and be as fast as Nick and everyone else that drives Elites are.”
Coming from a dirt background, Haley has continued to hone his dirt skills intermittently since joining the NASCAR ranks. He started as a Micro Sprint racer around his local venues in Indiana, and even made the tow out to the famed Tulsa Shootout event in Oklahoma every year to race amongst hundreds of entries. He then began his path toward a career in NASCAR and dipped his feet into the DIRTcar UMP Modified world soon after.
“I really got into the Modified stuff when I started truck racing again,” Haley said. “They had the [Eldora Dirt Derby], and I was looking for something to freshen-up my skills again.”
Armed with a Lethal Chassis built by family friend and fellow NASCAR pilot David Stremme, Haley began entering events, even winning a Heat Race in the final DIRTcar Fall Nationals held at Eldora Speedway in 2017. Before long, Haley began to bring the car with him to Volusia to take part in seven-straight nights of UMP Modified racing at DIRTcar Nationals.
To this day, he’s still enjoying the thrill of competition, which keeps him coming back and aiming higher each year in the Modified.
“The dirt stuff is so tough,” Haley said. “When we go to Volusia, or any DIRTcar event, just making the show itself is tough for me, especially since I don’t do it too often.
“The dirt racers in the Dirt Modified world are exceptional race car drivers and bring their best every time they’re on track. It just presents a new challenge to me, and it’s fun.”
Haley said he sees value in having skills on both asphalt and dirt, which helps drive him to stay sharp on both each year. And so do his car owners.
“Fortunately for me, I have Matt Kaulig and Chris Rice, Team President at Kaulig Racing, they love when I dirt race,” Haley said. “They love when I do it because I enjoy it.
“It’s awesome to have team owners that care about you and what you’re doing and want to see you succeed.”
Haley will take on a star-studded field of UMP Modified drivers next weekend, including Stremme, national Dirt Late Model star Chris Madden, and regional UMP Modified champion Austin Holcombe, as he debuts at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Three days of racing with 300-plus cars in 10 different divisions – it’s the one place to race to cap the dirt racing season.