In only his third Cup start (and the 18th race for fledgling Spire Motorsports in its inaugural season), Haley was in first for one lap – the only lap he’s led in his career – when the Coke Zero Sugar 400 was stopped Sunday because of inclement weather.
The 20-year-old from Winamac, Indiana, inherited the lead when Kurt Busch pitted from the lead on Lap 127 of a scheduled 160. A little more than two hours later, after multiple holds for lightning and a downpour, Haley was declared the winner.
He became the first driver to win a race with one career lap led since Brad Keselowski scored his inaugural victory on April 26, 2009 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Keselowski is one of several Cup winners who were as unexpected as Haley was Sunday at Daytona.
Keselowski also is a good example of some who went on to create much greater legacies.
Here are some of the biggest upsets over the past 20 years in NASCAR’s premier series (which means we are excluding some memorable surprises from the Xfinity and truck series, such as David Gilliland at Kentucky Speedway in 2006):
2016 Pennsylvania 400: In NASCAR’s first fog-shortened race in more than 40 years, Chris Buescher led the final 12 laps by staying on track after many pitted during a green-flag cycle.
The rookie won in his 27th career Cup start and catapulted into a playoff berth that was a seven-figure boon for Front Row Motorsports.
“This is going to change our whole year right here,” he said. “We got a win here, so we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
2013 Aaron’s 499: Another Front Row Motorsports stunner as teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland finished 1-2, rocketing from the fourth row in a two-lap overtime restart that ended a race delayed more than three hours by rain.
“As frustrated as I am by this loss, I’m really happy for (Ragan and Gilliland),” Edwards said.
“I see how hard teams have to work to be competitive at this level. It truly couldn’t happen to two better guys.”
2011 Southern 500: “We’re not supposed to win this thing!” Regan Smith radioed his Furniture Row Racing team after his only victory in NASCAR’s premier series.
But most impressive was how Smith won: Inheriting the lead by staying on track under caution and then fending off Edwards (who was on fresh tires) on two late restarts. Smith slammed the Turn 2 wall on the final lap while holding the throttle wide open to join a roster of legendary Southern 500 winners that includes David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
“I don’t know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight, maybe it does,” said Smith, who wouldn’t win again in Cup but became a perennial winner and title contender in Xfinity.