Hometown: Temecula, CA
Current Level: K&N Pro Series / ARCA
Last Year’s Pick: 33rd
It’s not rare to see a few big performances greatly improve a player’s stock ahead of the NFL Draft. The same goes for aspiring stock car drivers during the Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes on Speed51.com.
When the spotlight shines bright on a driver and they exceed expectations with impressive performances, that can often lead to a big jump up the draft board. That was the case for rising stock car star Hailie Deegan in the months separating the 2018 and 2019 Short Track Drafts.
After being selected 33rd in last year’s draft, the 17-year-old daughter of former X Games superstar & Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series driver Brian Deegan impressed the panel of industry experts enough to earn the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes.
“I think it’s really cool because in the past years I’ve always watched the Short Track Draft and stuff,” Deegan said. “I think I was in the 30s or something last year, and I think it was because I wasn’t big on the NASCAR scene yet. I was still racing off-road stuff. It’s cool being in the stock car scene and being compared to other drivers. I saw that Chandler (Smith) was first. If I had to put my money on the best driver, hands down I would say it’s Chandler just because he’s such a good driver. Just to be in the mix with those guys is a cool thing to see.”
Deegan earned her selection as the fourth pick by breaking through for a pair of NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victories during the last eight months. She first broke through with a historic victory at Meridian Speedway (CA) last September in which she became the first female to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race. Deegan followed that up in February by earning her second series victory in thrilling fashion at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s crazy to think how much has happened in the last year in my racing career, how much has changed in such a little amount of time,” she said. “Everyone behind me supports me, which is really cool, just my whole family supporting me and stuff and seeing the journey we’re taking.”
The journey Deegan embarked on has not been the typical path taken to NASCAR stardom. She grew up racing dirt bikes before transitioning to off-road racing and eventually becoming the first female to win a championship in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series (Mod Karts). After being named the 2016 Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Driver of the Year, she began making her transition to stock cars by driving Legends Cars for Rev Racing.
From there, Deegan made her asphalt Late Model debut in the Jr. Late Model division at Madera Speedway. In 2018, she joined Bill McAnally Racing to compete on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West circuit.
The early results weren’t fantastic but Deegan stuck with it and continued to learn as she made her transition to asphalt. That paid off as the season progressed and she became more and more comfortable behind the wheel of the heavier stock car.
“One-hundred percent, it was frustrating at the beginning. It’s a hard transition,” Deegan admitted. “It’s like throwing someone in a whole new sport; it’s completely different. It’s hard for anyone to learn so quick. It took me a little less than a half season to figure it out and figure out exactly how I liked my setups and stuff.”
In addition to her improved performance on the race track, Deegan has also become one of the most prominent short track drivers away from the race track. By mixing her desire to improve, a great personality and a strong social media game, she has become a superstar on and off the track.
“I like my social media a lot, focusing on that and building it. It gives me a platform to speak my mind,” Deegan stated. “A lot of drivers don’t have that, they just kind of just stay with the same old stuff and what happens on the track. It’s cool to explain your side of the story. I like showing fans what I do on a regular basis, whether it’s my training, my off-road racing, whatever happens at the track or after, just different things that go on in my life.”
What’s next in life for Hailie Deegan? In addition to chasing the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship, she’ll also compete in six ARCA Racing Series events for Venturini Motorsports in 2019.
When next year’s Short Track Draft comes around, she’s hoping to have more wins and a championship on her resume.
“This year I’d definitely like to get a few more wins. My goal is to win the championship on the (NASCAR K&N) West Series,” Deegan said. “At each level, like when I move up to ARCA and every level that I’m at, I just want to focus on getting better as quick as possible and not taking it too slow. I want to learn as much as I can at every level, but I definitely want to go slow with how I move up the ranks. But I want to learn as quick as I can at every level because of how important timing is. Once I get to ARCA, I definitely want to make sure I do as good as I can as quick as possible.”
Only three short track drivers were selected before Deegan in the 2019 Short Track Draft presented by PFC Brakes. Chandler Smith was selected as the number one pick, Bobby Pierce was picked second and Christian Eckes was selected third.
The fifth pick in the Short Track Draft will be revealed at 12 p.m. ET on Friday, while picks six through 10 will be released Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
Picks 11 through 25 will be revealed Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. The remainder of the top 51 will be announced Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
The Short Track Draft will continue Tuesday with picks 52-75 being revealed at 12 p.m. ET. The remainder of the top 100 picks will be announced Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - @Brandon_Paul51