FORT WORTH, Texas – Justin Haley join GMS Racing teammate Johnny Sauter in the championship round at Homestead, earning his berth when race leader Todd Gilliland ran out of fuel just a half-lap from the finish of Friday night’s JAG Metals 350 Camping World Truck Series race.
Gilliland, impressive in his starts this season in the No. 4 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, led laps 124-146 at Texas Motor Speedway. But when his truck stumbled, Haley was there to grab the lead, the win and a chance to battle for the championship in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It’s not like we’re lucky,” the 19-year-old Haley said, “we’re bringing fast trucks.”
He led four times for 33 laps Friday night, and it was his third win of the season so there’s more than just a little truth to what he said.
“To have both GMS Trucks that are running in the playoffs locked in … it’s a much bigger picture than just the (No.) 24 team,” Haley added. “There are over 100 employees at the shop that can really focus. This is our Homestead truck, we’re going to turn it around.”
Fellow GMS driver Johnny Sauter won last week’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to earn a shot at the championship.
Crew chief Kevin Bellicourt said his crew had put in just enough fuel during a final pit stop to give Haley a buffer should the race into overtime. Gilliland wasn’t as fortunate.
“We could go 50 laps (on full tank), right at it,” Bellicourt said. “We knew that so we were right at our window. I brought him in one lap earlier than I was originally planning because pretty much everyone had come down pit road. … We literally took just enough fuel to get two laps past the finish.”
Gilliland coasted across the finish line fourth after leading twice for 60 laps.
“I have no idea how we were on fuel,” Gilliland, 18, said afterward. “I thought we were good.
“I’m very disappointed but very proud at the same time. My team gave me a great truck and I wrecked it in qualifying. We were still able to come out here and contend for a win.”
Ben Rhodes finished second to Haley, while playoff contender Brett Moffitt was third.
Playoff drivers Matt Crafton, Noah Gragson, Sauter and Grant Enfinger finished ninth through 12th, respectively. Gragson holds the No. 4 cutoff spot with one race remaining, next weekend’s stop at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Enfinger trails Gragson by 18 while Crafton sits 23 back.