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Rumor Mill: Justin Haley To The Wood Brothers

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What’s Happening?

One of the most intriguing drivers of NASCAR Silly Season is Justin Haley, given his impressive season with Rick Ware Racing. One rumor that has popped up in the garage is Haley potentially going to The Wood Brothers, as the spotters on “Door, Bumper, Clear” discussed in a recent episode linked below. However, would this make sense for Justin Haley?

  • Justin Haley made a surprise move last off-season, signing a multi-year contract with Rick Ware Racing after Kaulig Racing elected not to renew his contract. He has impressed thus far in 2024 with RWR’s first two non-superspeedway top-10 finishes, and he sits 30th in both Driver’s and Owner’s points, better than both Kaulig cars and The Wood Brothers.
  • After making the Playoffs with Ryan Blaney in 2017 and Matt DiBenedetto in 2020, the Wood Brothers have regressed with Harrison Burton behind the wheel. The team also recently changed ownership hands to the third generation of the Wood Family. Jon Wood took over as Team President, with siblings Jordan and Keven joining the ownership group.
  • Fans are excited to see where Justin Haley will go next. However, would The Wood Brothers be the right move?

Is This an Upgrade for Justin Haley?

The Wood Brothers would probably be ecstatic to sign Justin Haley. Haley is a young Ford driver who has shown promise this season. With Chase Briscoe potentially off the table, as he is rumored to be the favorite to go to Joe Gibbs Racing, one can argue that Haley is the second-best Ford driver younger than 30.

However, would The Wood Brothers actually be a better situation for Justin Haley? In previous years, Rick Ware Racing was obviously slower than pretty much every team on the grid, but that’s not so obvious anymore. Haley is beating the Wood Brothers in Rick Ware Racing equipment in the points standings just one race shy of the halfway point of the season

Granted, in the last decade, The Wood Brothers had some respectable years, including winning a race with Ryan Blaney in 2017 at Pocono and making the Playoffs on points with Matt DiBenedetto in 2020. From 2016, when the team returned to full-time competition by purchasing a charter and aligning with Team Penske, through DiBenedetto’s departure in 2021, The Wood Brothers’ drivers never finished worse than 20th in points (Ryan Blaney in 2016) with two Playoff appearances. This included two years with Paul Menard as their driver in 2018 and 2019, where he finished 19th in both seasons.

Coincidentally, Harrison Burton’s arrival in 2022 meant a downturn for the Wood Brothers. Burton has regressed every year in multiple statistical categories. He also recorded a 31st-place points finish in 2023, tied for the worst points finish for a full-time Wood Brothers driver in the team’s history (Kenny Schrader in 2006).

YearAvg. FinishAvg. StartLaps LedPoints Position
202222.822.13527th
202324.725.32531st
2024 (17 races in)27.425.2733rd

Granted, there is still around half a season left to go, but this showcases how much of a struggle it has been for Burton. With talented drivers, The Wood Brothers tend to get results, and maybe Haley could be just the guy to improve them.

The alliance with Team Penske is also interesting. Anytime a driver can be associated with Team Penske, they have to at least entertain the possibility. However, is this truly a better opportunity for Haley?

Rick Ware Racing is aligned with RFK Racing, which has two cars and would like to expand to three cars at some point, but it is in no rush to do so. Team Penske already has three cars, and with rumors of NASCAR potentially limiting teams to three cars starting with the next charter deal, it might not be as easy for Haley to move upwards at the team. RFK Racing might have an easier path upwards if they can buy a charter.

Unlike past years, moving from Rick Ware Racing to another team is not an obvious upgrade. Haley has a lot to consider if he wants to make the move. He seems to think that RWR is a pretty good place to be, as he addressed the rumors of moving on from RWR by reaffirming his commitment to the race team.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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