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  • Writer's pictureEthan Hoffman

Justin Haley Stuns The Racing World -- To Join Rick Ware Racing In 2024

By Ethan Hoffman -- Motorsports Today Contributor

Third year driver, Justin Haley, announced Thursday that he would be leaving Kaulig Racing at season's end for a multi-year deal with Rick Ware Racing. Haley had been with Kaulig in the Cup Series since 2021, gathering 9 Top 10s and 4 Top 5s as of July 21st. (Photo via Getty Images)

Thursday afternoon.. Just three minutes after the clock struck 12, the NASCAR world received one of the strangest pieces of silly season information in recent memory.

Justin Haley, driver of the #31 Kaulig Racing chevrolet, announced that he is set to leave his current team at season’s end, in favor for a multi-year deal with Rick Ware Racing.

The news left many fans bewildered as Justin Haley has been Kaulig Racing’s main prospect since the 2019 season, and the two parties seemed confident of their return just over a month ago.

Kaulig Racing team president, Chris Rice, told the Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi that the chances of Haley returning to the No. 31 were “high”, stating that he loves Justin and thinks he’s is a big part of the team.

Haley raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing from 2019-2021, winning four races and finishing 3rd in the Driver Standings in 2020. (Photo via Associated Press)

Likewise, Haley said that he favored a return to Kaulig over moving teams.. “I would love to stay (with Kaulig Racing). It’s where I’ve grown up basically … I feel confident of my position in the sport and feel like there’s no reason we can’t get a deal done.”

The other main question lingering in fans mind is why would Justin Haley want to downgrade his positon in the sport, as Kaulig is a lot farther ahead in competing than Rick Ware Racing is.

Rick Ware Racing has garnered itself a reputation with being the worst of the worst when it comes to NASCAR teams, constantly running in the bottom 5 positions while causing some type of problems on the racetrack on a week to week basis.

Just three weeks ago, Rick Ware Racing's No. 15 got the team's best ever finish with a 7th place at Atlanta. Alongside a Top-10 in the Daytona 500, the team has been slowly improving their performance. (Photo via Nigel Kinrade Photography)

However, since the team’s move onto the RFK Racing campus , the two car team has seen better results, with both the No. 15 and No. 51 teams looking the most competitive they have ever been.

After just 20 races of the 2023 season, Rick Ware Racing has more top 10s this season, than they have ever had in a single season before. The team has steadily improved since being the 4-car team that would anchor the leaderboard from 2018-2021. The team has potential and just needed a star driver to spearhead their climbing of the ranks and pulling Justin Haley is exactly what they needed to stay relevant.

Another interesting quirk in this situation, is the handling of charters and replacements. Kaulig Racing may very well be forced to downsize to a one car team next season or find a newe charter for the No. 31 entry.

The charter currently used to field Justin Haley and The No. 31 is owned and leased to Kaulig by former NASCAR team owner, Todd Braun. Braun is the uncle of Justin Haley and has done everything in his power to fund Haley’s career to this point.

When Haley was running a majority of races in the Spire Motorsports No. 77, the charter was leased by Todd Braun.

When Haley was progressed to the full-time cup entry for Kaulig, Braun moved the charter from Spire Motorsports to Kaulig Racing.

It seems very likely that Braun could take Kaulig’s charter with him to Rick Ware Racing, leaving Kaulig out a charter and Rick Ware, a shiny brand new charter with a higher points value and is safe from NASCAR repossession.

This charter debacle doesn’t only affect Kaulig Racing when it comes to next season, but every single race team looking to aqquire a charter. Rick Ware, who is receiving a charter essentially for free just to put Justin Haley in his car, likely has money signs for eyes when he realizes he can sell his two current charters for up to $40 million each while still being able to race comfortably in 2024 and beyond.

There are plenty of race teams out there looking for a charter that would be willing to pay the estimate Ware values his charters at, whether it be Trackhouse Racing, 23XI Racing, JR Motorsports or even Kaulig Racing, there are enough interested in the charters for Ware to sell to and make a quick buck.

Another domino has fallen onto silly season, as NASCAR fans sit on the edge of their seats to see how this effects the fast approaching 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Even without a charter securing the No. 31, names being thrown out to replace Haley in the 2nd Kaulig Racing entry include Austin Hill, Chandler Smith, Daniel Hemric, Noah Gragson, and more.

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