By: Mitchell Breuer
One of the biggest silly season stories outside of the NASCAR Cup Series for the last couple of years has been Hailie Deegan.
Deegan, who made waves at the beginning of this year moving from the Toyota driver development program to Ford’s, was again the center of attention during her NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series debut at Kansas Speedway. In the middle of the race, it was announced she would move to the series full-time in 2021 with DGR-Crosley Racing.
Moving up means a lot of things for the 19-year-old, one of which is having to deal with better competition. This was something Deegan noticed during her debut, as she worked her way up from her 34th starting position to finish 16th.
“In the ARCA Series, there is about seven to ten on a regular basis really good cars and really good drivers with it. Going to the Truck Series, there is about 20 really good trucks and drivers,” Deegan said.“It makes it a lot tougher and a lot more competitive once you start getting through that pack. It is very intense. It is a lot different racing styles, and it is something that makes me glad that I did a truck race this season before moving on to it next year.”
The Truck Series will be another learning experience for Deegan, as was the case this year where she ran her first full season in the ARCA Menards Series. She noted 2019became more of a challenge after the sport’s pause for the COVID-19 pandemic, as practice time was shrunk and in some weekends cut.
“I had goals obviously and everything had to change with the COVID deal, and something I value a lot in my career is practice,” Deegan said. “I love practicing and I always get better throughout practice. I am better at setting up cars when we have practice. It gives us more time and a lot more data to learn off for the team and develop more. That has gotten minimized because of the situation that we are in but we are still making the best of it.”
Despite the obstacles, Deegan still finished the ARCA season on a high note, scoring 10 finishes of sixth or better, coming third in points, and winning the series’ rookie of the year award.
“Our equipment has gotten a lot better from where we started at the beginning of the year,” Deegan said. “We had some stuff to work on. It is hard changing manufactures with a team, it takes some time to get everything figured and in place, and the sport has done a great job with the resources given to the team to do that. I think that is why, just in this season after the short break in racing, the time we have had to race, there has been so much development and I have seen physically so much progress with the team.”
Looking ahead, she is excited for future with not only her team, but also with Ford, especially with the success their drivers have seen recently. This is especially apparent with Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, who worked their way up from ARCA, and now are battling for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship, and have top-level NASCAR Cup Series rides waiting for them.
“It makes me have a lot of faith in the Ford development program because you see it works, you see it pays off, and you see there is a lot of success that comes with it,” Deegan said. “So, I know I am always going to be put in the best positions and situations to be set up for a successful future.”