NASCAR Daytona Auto Racing

Justin Haley (center) waits on pit road in the rain with crew members after the NASCAR Cup Series auto race was stopped because of weather at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday in Daytona Beach, Fla. Haley was declared the winner a short time later.

Whether you want to call it an upset, a surprise, shocking or something else, Justin Haley’s NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona on Sunday is the “most.”

While that may seem like a bold claim, think about this: Haley was making his third career Cup start with a team that didn’t exist until December and was 34th in owner points before Daytona.

In fact, Spire Motorsports had never finished inside the top 20 — including 30th or worse 14 times in 17 races — before Sunday. And Haley’s only career lap led is the one under yellow before NASCAR displayed the red flag and, ultimately, called the race official.

It was the first win for crew chief Peter Sospenzo since 2003 (another rain-shortened win with Joe Nemechek) and the first victory for No. 77 since 1959 with Joe Lee Johnson.

Here are some of the other most unexpected wins over the years, along with a reason why Haley’s win is crazier than them.

NASCAR Pocono Auto Racing

Chris Buescher (right) holds up the winner's trophy with the help of President of Pocono Raceway Brandon Igdalsky after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pennsylvania 400 auto race at Pocono Raceway, on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Long Pond, Pa.

Chris Buescher, Pocono 2016

Driving for Front Row Motorsports, Buescher inherited the lead under a round of green flag pit stops and held on until rain hit the track. The race was called and Buescher had his first win.

Reason: FRM, in its 12th season, had won before. And Buescher, the reigning Xfinity Series champion, was in a fulltime rookie season with support from Roush Fenway Racing.

David Ragan

David Ragan burns out his tires following a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., on Sunday, May 5, 2013.

David Ragan, Talladega 2013

Front Row Motorsports’ first win in Cup competition came when Ragan stormed to the front late to lead a 1-2 finish with teammate David Gilliland, a pinnacle moment for the team.

Reason: Though never a winner, the team was an established restrictor plate contender before the win. And Ragan was a seasoned veteran by this time with a win at Daytona two years earlier.

Trevor Bayne

Trevor Bayne's car is surrounded by his crew in victory lane after Bayne won the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011.

Trevor Bayne, Daytona 2011

Bayne’s Daytona 500 win, which came in just his second career start, was certainly unexpected. In a backup Wood Brothers Racing car, he played the tandem draft right for his first win.

Reason: Although the team was a shell of its former self and not what it is today, either, the Wood Brothers were NASCAR’s oldest team and had support from Roush at the time.

David Reutimann

David Reutimann celebrates in victory lane after winning the rain-shortened NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 auto race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord on Monday, May 25, 2009.

David Reutimann, Charlotte 2009

In another rain-shortened victory, Reutimann picked up his first Cup win and the first for Michael Waltrip Racing in one of NASCAR’s biggest races, the Coca-Cola 600.

Reason: MWR was an established team with heavy Toyota support by the time of Reutimann’s win. And the driver, who would go on to win again in 2010, had a pole and a top five already.

Carl Edwards Ryan newman, Brad Keselowski

Carl Edwards (99) goes airborne after crashing with Ryan Newman (rear) and Brad Keselowski on the final lap of the Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., on Sunday, April 26, 2009. Keselowski won the race.

Brad Keselowski, Talladega 2009

A last-lap pass that sent Carl Edwards flying into the catch fence sent Keselowski and Phoenix Racing to their first Cup win. It was just the fifth career Cup start for Keselowski.

Reason: Keselowski was a known commodity as a Hendrick Motorsports development driver. James Finch’s team had been around for years and scored good finishes at plate tracks.


Jamie McMurray spins his tires at the finish line after winning the NASCAR UAW-GM Quality 500 race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2002.

Jamie McMurray, Charlotte 2002

In just his second career start, McMurray parlayed his role as a substitute driver for Sterling Marlin into a dominating win in the fall race at NASCAR’s home track.

Reason: Chip Ganassi’s No. 40 Dodge was on pace for a championship before Marlin got hurt. It had won two races earlier in the season. McMurray won two Busch Series races in 2002.

Michael Waltrip, Brett Bodine

Michael Waltrip (right) and Brett Bodine talk about the weather as a line of thunderstorms moves into Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., on July 1, 1993.

Brett Bodine, North Wilkesboro 1990

Bodine came out on the good end of a NASCAR scoring gaffe at North Wilkesboro Speedway to beat out Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt to score his first and only Cup Series win.

Reason: Although the way Bodine got to the lead was controversial, he led 146 laps in the win. His King Racing team had won each of the prior two seasons with Ricky Rudd, as well.


Derrike Cope drives his Chevrolet across the finish line ahead of Terry Labonte's Oldsmobile to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 1990.

Derrike Cope, Daytona 1990

Cope benefitted from Dale Earnhardt’s last-lap flat tire to snag a shocking Daytona 500 victory, his first career win and the first for team owner Bob Whitcomb in the sport’s biggest race.

Reason: Cope had been in Cup since 1982 and had legendary crew chief Buddy Parrott atop the pit box. Cope and Whitcomb Racing also would go on to win again at Dover later that season.

Johnny Benson, Phil Parsons, Ray Dunlap

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Johnny Benson (center) talks with Phil Parsons (left) and Ray Dunlap on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006, in Avondale, Ariz., following practice for the Casino Arizona 150.

Phil Parsons, Talladega 1988

Parsons, the younger brother of Winston Cup champion Benny Parsons, led 52 laps to take Leo and Richard Jackson’s No. 55 Oldsmobile to his first career victory.

Reason: Parsons had several fulltime Cup seasons under his belt, including some top five finishes. And the Jackson Brothers had fielded winning cars in the past.


Mike Skinner (19) and Bobby Hillin Jr. collide in turn four of Darlington Raceway as fans look on during the Dura-Lube 200 race on Saturday, Sept. 4, 1999, in Darlington, S.C.

Bobby Hillin Jr., Talladega 1986

In just his second fulltime Cup season, Hillin led the final nine laps after passing Tim Richmond to secure his first and only career win driving for the Stavola Brothers.

Reason: Hillin was really good in ’86, and the win was his eighth top 10 of the season, including a top five at the first Talladega race. He finished the season inside the top 10 in the points.


The car of Greg Sacks sails over Lake Speed's wrecked car at Pocono International Raceway during the A.C. Spark Plug 500 NASCAR race in Long Pond, Pa., on July 23, 1989.

Greg Sacks, Daytona 1985

Driving a research and development car for DiGard Racing, Sacks passed superspeedway ace Bill Elliott with nine circuits remaining to score his first and only career Cup victory.

Reason: Even though Sacks never did much before or after his Firecracker 400 win, DiGard was a championship winning team and had won a pile of races before starting Sacks’ R&D team.

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NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey stands on pit road during a race in 1974.

Jody Ridley, Dover 1981

Ridley inherited the lead late after Cale Yarborough’s engine expired to win for the first and only time, scoring the lone Cup win for team owner Junie Donlavey in the process.

Reason: Though never before or after a winner, Donlavey had been a fixture in the NASCAR garage since 1950 and had some great drivers in his cars. Ridley was a known late model ace.

Justin Epley is a sports writer for The News Herald. He can be reached at

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