CRA ALL STARS: Rookie J.J. Haley Shines in CRA All-Stars Tour Opener

RaceChaser Staff ARCA, Midwest, Other Late Models, Stock Cars 0 Comments

May 4, 2014 — official release — CRA photo — SPRINGPORT, Mich. – 15-year-old J.J. Haley, a contender for the Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title chase, took the lead from Dan Leeck on lap 78 and fought off Leeck and the rest of the field to score his first career JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour victory Saturday in the Cabin Fever 100 at Springport (Mich.) Speedway.

In doing so, Haley became the first rookie driver in series history to start a season with a win. 

“What a great weekend. This is so awesome. I wished we would’ve qualified better though. I told the team that we’d make it up in the race,” the elated Hoosier State teenager stated in victory lane after climbing out of his #99 Braun Ability / Braun Auto Group / Chevrolet to a loud ovation by the fans.

“The car was great all weekend long. I just made a mistake in qualifying so we had to start pretty far back in the field. I knew I just had to be patient and pass cars when I had the chance. I can’t thank everyone enough. This is just great.” 

Another rookie, 16-year-old Cole Rouse, and Dan Leeck brought the stout field of cars to the green flag and after a complete restart, it would be Leeck edging Rouse heading into the first corner to grab the early lead. After a caution flag on lap seven, Dominique Van Wieringen would restart next to Leeck and on the following green flag circuit she would drive around Leeck to take over the top spot.

Van Wieringen would then proceed to set a torrid pace around the three-eighths-mile, building up her lead while Haley, who started 18th, had already begun to methodically work his way through the field. At the halfway point Van Wieringen was still leading, but by then Haley had made his way into the top five.

In the meantime, Leeck would lose second place to Trevor Berry, who was making his full fended stock car racing debut. He worked his way past Leeck and the open-wheeled graduate set his sights on Van Wieringen.

Unfortunately for Berry on lap 62 an oil filter bypass blew out and he would lay oil down heading into turns three and four, ending an otherwise impressive debut. After the red flag and ensuing cleanup, the next restart would see Leeck able to inch out ahead of Van Wieringen to reclaim the lead on lap 63.

He brought Haley with him and the battle was on for the top spot. Haley would make the winning pass on lap 78 for the point, earning the AR Bodies Cool Move of the Race Award. Despite several late restarts, Haley crossed the stripe first to earn his first career JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour triumph in only his third career start.

“This is a great way to start the point’s season. We really want the Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie title,” Haley continued amidst post-race celebrations around him. “We know now that we can also contend for the overall championship too. This is going to be a fun and busy season.” 

Leeck finished second, followed by Steve Dorer, Eric Lee and Josh Nelms.

The JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by Chevrolet Performance will make the farthest trip west of the 2014 racing season for their next stop, also the richest paying race of the year. Lebanon I-44 Speedwaywill host the 2nd Annual Mercy Masters of the Pros 144 Presented by JEGS.com on May 17th. In the series’ only other appearance in 2013, now NASCAR Nationwide  Series standout, Chase Elliott took home the green jacket after scoring the thrilling victory.

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