By: Ashley McCubbin
Despite being viewed as one of the most popular up-and-coming drivers, Hailie Deegan has yet to visit victory lane in her past two seasons of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition. In fact, she has only scored three top-10’s across 46 races.
That is something she hopes to change in 2023, joining ThorSport Racing as a teammate to past series champions Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes, as well as 2022 Championship 4 contender Ty Majeski.
“I think the last two seasons in trucks I’ve been trying to figure it out and kind of learning the ropes of the Truck Series and I feel like I’ve good a grasp on it now and understand what you need to be successful as a driver, what the team needs to do for their part and the people you need to have around you,” Deegan commented. “There’ just a lot of pieces to the puzzle and I think maybe the last two years it was trying to find those pieces and trying to figure it out and I feel like coming here to ThorSport they obviously always had their pieces to the puzzle figured out and they have a lot of success in racing and in the Truck Series and have for a long time, so I think that coming here is kind of making up those pieces to the puzzle that might have been lacking in the past and I think we’re gonna have a lot more success together.”
While some view the opportunity as a make-or-break season for the second generation racer, she is taking a different approach. The pressure is nothing new to her, having been around since she got involved in motorsports, allowing her to grow with the sentiment “if you can’t deal with the pressure, then you probably shouldn’t have that pressure on you.”
She is ready to embrace the opportunity, especially being partnered up with Rich Luches, whom led Rhodes to his championship in 2021, followed by a runner-up in 2022.
“When the opportunity arose first of all to come to ThorSport my eyes lit up and then second of all to be able to have Rich as my crew chief, I think, it just became almost like a dream came true,” she told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I was so happy, so excited and just so positive when it came to the outlook about it. If everything is right and all those pieces to the puzzle are right and everything kind of makes up the perfect ideal situation for me, that’s what I want. I don’t want to be looking at it like, ‘Man, I wish I had this. I wish I was able to get this.’ If I have everything that I feel I need, that just motivates me to work harder and really do everything that I possibly can and go out there and try to maximize everything on the track.”
After scoring 12 top-20 finishes in 2022, she feels she can regularly battle for top-10’s now surrounded by a “solid core group of people.”
“I think there are so many things going on in the racing world at all times that you have to have people who have your back 24/7, that believe that you can practically do anything,” she expressed. “I think that’s the type of feeling you get when you go into a shop and to be with a team like ThorSport. You hear so many great things about them all around the garage. The garage is a small place. Words travel fast there, so everyone speaks super highly of ThorSport and how they are to be a part of and so I think that this is a quality place that even though they’re in Ohio, it’s a couple of hour drive, not too far, I’m willing to definitely make the effort to come in here and be a part of it.”
The opportunity for Deegan arose with ThorSport returning to Ford as a manufacture after leaving them the past two seasons. It allowed the manufacture to keep her in the blue oval brand after David Gilliand Racing rebranded with a switch to Toyota.
“We’re a family company,” Ford Performance Motorsports Global Director Mark Rushbrook said. “We like to be committed to the people that are part of our program and give them every opportunity to exceed and to excel and be successful, so we wanted to give Hailie that opportunity with the right team and the right people around her to take that next step, to continue advancing. As I said earlier, she’s shown the potential that we’ve seen in her all along and growth and this is that opportunity to go one more level.”