Why NASCAR's overdue underdog win for Haley proved so divisive

Justin Haley's against-the-odds NASCAR Cup Series victory at Daytona last weekend became embroiled in controversy on social media, despite it being a proper underdog success story. Jim Utter says only NASCAR could be handed the opportunity to champion one of the things it craves the most, yet allow it to become entangled in ill-feeling

Why NASCAR's overdue underdog win for Haley proved so divisive

An underdog team defies the odds against teams with a larger budget and pulls out a stunning upset victory that leaves the sport swooning its approval.

Except this time, not so much.

There are several contributing factors to the social media outrage to Haley's win in Sunday's rain-shortened NASCAR Cup Series race, but the predominant target appears to be the team for which Haley drives.

Spire Sports + Entertainment was founded in 2010 primarily as a talent management agency and consultants in motorsports, working with drivers, sponsors and teams. It also has worked with music artists and owns part of a minor-league hockey team.

In December, the company announced it had purchased the charter from Furniture Row Racing's No. 77 team - one of the most successful in the sport - in order to field a team in the Cup series in 2019.

FRR had decided to close its doors at the end of the 2018 season.

Spire saw an opportunity, secured a loan to purchase the charter, and began fielding a full time Cup series team in February.

It works with another organisation, Premium Motorsports, to field its entries, and doesn't have multiple new cars or engines or a large fulltime staff.

It generally runs in the back of the field but typically gives younger drivers the chance to drive the car each race to gain experience.

In many respects the company represents many of the ideals fans have hoped to see in the sport, namely new ownership and more opportunities for young drivers to gain valuable experience in what have become scarce Cup series rides.

Rather than champion those ideals, many have chosen to criticise the company, accusing it of just trying to make money off its charter acquisition with no real intention of trying to become a fully-funded, top-level team.

Here is where the outrage becomes ridiculous.

Everyone who could put the money together had a chance to purchase the charter from Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser.

If the idea of a company that also represents drivers in the sport also owning a team was no appalling, why did no one else bother to try to purchase the charter for themselves?

Instead of championing the willingness of new owners to take out a large loan and invest more into a championship in which they already work, Spire Motorsports is vilified by some for taking advantage of one of the benefits the charter system was supposed to provide - encouraging new ownership investment.

And what does Spire do with its investment? More often than not, it provides young drivers who have not had the opportunity to compete in NASCAR's top series the chance to do so.

Again, something that many have claimed to be lacking in the sport in recent years.

Nobody forced Kurt Busch - or Landon Cassill's team for that matter - to pit before Sunday's race was scheduled to return to green-flag conditions.

Why is Spire to blame because other far more highly-funded Cup teams failed to envision an outcome in the race that Spire's crew chief, veteran Peter Sospenzo, immediately recognised?

Daytona and Talladega races have long been championed by fans and others in the sport for the ability to produce unexpected winners - races where the underdogs have a chance against the top-level teams.

On Sunday, circumstances played out to serve up a feel-good story that could define an entire season.

It's sad so many are finding fault in an outcome that provides evidence NASCAR is producing some of the very things they have all long desired.

shares
comments
Xfinity driver Haley stuns to win NASCAR Daytona in third Cup start
Previous article

Xfinity driver Haley stuns to win NASCAR Daytona in third Cup start

Next article

Haley doubts he would have shock NASCAR Daytona win without red flag

Haley doubts he would have shock NASCAR Daytona win without red flag
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Plus

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson’s journey to the 2021 NASCAR Cup title comes straight from the Hollywood blockbuster scripts. While Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines for both the right and the wrong reasons

NASCAR
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Plus

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup Series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Plus

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Plus

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organisation - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR
Aug 31, 2021
The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin Plus

The F1 nearly-man winding back the clock in NASCAR’s European cousin

A multiple F3000 race winner, Marc Goossens was on the precipice of making Formula 1 in the 1990s - but a lack of budget left him without a path to the promised land. Turning to an illustrious racing career in sportscars, Goossens left the endurance circuit to try his hand at racing stock cars - and now calls the NASCAR Euro Series home

NASCAR
Jul 1, 2021
Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR Plus

Why a British prospect is trying to make it in NASCAR

There has never been a full-time British driver in the NASCAR Cup. But Alex Sedgwick, who is rising through the stock car ranks, wants that to change and could be a trailblazer for European talents to reach the top echelons of the NASCAR ladder

NASCAR
Feb 28, 2021
How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport Plus

How Earnhardt’s death changed American motorsport

It's 20 years since legendary driver Dale Earnhardt Sr died at the Daytona 500, but the legacy of his crash continues today through the pioneering safety work done by NASCAR

NASCAR
Feb 18, 2021
The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021 Plus

The NASCAR subplots to keep an eye on in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season

NASCAR
Feb 12, 2021