Justin Haley — yes, Justin Haley — wins rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona

Well, this was a bizarre NASCAR finish.

Justin Haley was 27th when Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer spurred a 17-car crash while running 1-2 during the rain-delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Sunday. And thanks to some lightning and some thunderstorms, Haley wound up as the winner of the race despite no more green flag laps getting run after the crash.

Whoops. (via NBC)
Whoops. (via NBC)

Kurt Busch was in first after the crash. When NASCAR said the race would go green in one more lap after the caution for the crash, Busch and others behind him in the running order pitted to make sure they could make it to the end of the race in 34 laps as rain was near Daytona International Speedway.


NASCAR puts races in a 30-minute hold for rain and storms if lightning strikes within an eight-mile radius. And, somehow, between Busch’s pit stop and the time the field hit the backstretch on the final caution lap, lightning struck just inside that radius.

Justin Haley stands in the garage area during practice for a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race, Saturday, June 15, 2019, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Justin Haley is a Cup Series winner. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

So NASCAR red-flagged the race. And, thanks to the pit stops, Haley was in the lead.

He became the eventual winner when lightning struck within the eight-mile radius just after the first 30-minute hold stopped. Rain picked up at the track during the second 30-minute hold and NASCAR appeared like it wanted to wait the rain out. But at approximately 5:30 ET — over five hours after the race began — NASCAR called the race and Haley was declared the winner.

It’s not a stretch to say the win is the biggest fluke in NASCAR history. It’s also not a stretch to say that Busch should be declared the winner, either. By saying there was one lap to go in the caution, Busch and others pitted with the tacit agreement that NASCAR was restarting the race with storms not that far away. The lightning strike within eight miles wasn’t a surprise.

Alas, NASCAR didn’t revert the scoring order and Haley is now a NASCAR winner in just his third Cup Series start. He’s not eligible for the playoffs because he’s running full-time in the Xfinity Series. And his team, Spire Motorsports, is a backmarker team that solely exists to make money off NASCAR anyway. The team doesn’t run competitively and had an average finish of 32.5 entering Sunday’s race.

Oh, Spire is also a driver and team agency as well. The NASCAR team only exists because the agency got the charter from the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing team and wouldn’t be allowed in any other major sports series. No other league allows team owners to also be agents for the league’s participants.

But this is NASCAR.

Those factors are why Sunday’s race may go down as the dumbest finish in NASCAR history. It’s certainly the flukiest.

Full results

1. Justin Haley

2. William Byron

3. Jimmie Johnson

4. Ty Dillon

5. Ryan Newman

6. Corey LaJoie

7. Aric Almirola

8. Matt DiBenedetto

9. Matt Tifft

10. Kurt Busch

11. Landon Cassill

12. JJ Yeley

13. Michael McDowell

14. Kyle Busch

15. Bubba Wallace

16. Paul Menard

17. Chris Buescher

18. Daniel Hemric

19. Brendan Gaughan

20. Kyle Larson

21. Alex Bowman

22. Martin Truex Jr.

23. Erik Jones

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25. Joey Logano

26. Denny Hamlin

27. Joey Gase

28. BJ McLeod

29. Kevin Harvick

30. Ross Chastain

31. Parker Kligerman

32. Ryan Preece

33. Austin Dillon

34. Clint Bowyer

35. Chase Elliott

36. Ryan Blaney

37. Quin Houff

38. David Ragan

39. Brad Keselowski

40. Daniel Suarez

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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