It’s been a whirlwind season for Hailie Deegan.
The first female driver to win in the long history of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West scored her second career win earlier this season on the dirt at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A member of Toyota Racing Development’s driver development program, she also signed a deal to race in six ARCA Menards Series events, further preparing her for the next steps on the way to a possible Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride in the future.
Deegan, who will turn 18 in July, made her ARCA debut at Toledo Speedway on May 19 and finished 18th. She’s readying for her second series start in the General Tire 150 at Pocono Raceway on May 31, a track that shares nothing in common with the fast Toledo half-mile except its asphalt surface.
Pocono, known as “The Tricky Triangle”, has three distinct corners. Each patterned after other racetracks, each with a different radius, and each with a different degree of banking. Turn one, a high-speed hairpin patterned after turns one and two at the long-defunct Trenton Speedway in New Jersey. Turn two is a sharp 90-degree turn patterned after the turns at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Turn three, which has “What Turn 4?” emblazoned on the outside wall, is a flat sweeper that is patterned after the corners at the Milwaukee Mile.
Deegan had an opportunity to acclimate herself to the track in an open test on Wednesday before taking to the track for practice, qualifying, and the General Tire 150 on Friday. Her goals for Wednesday were simple, to get used to the racetrack, her race car, and not do anything that impacts her chances on Friday.
“I had a lot of fun getting acclimated with the car and track today,” said Deegan. “Honestly my first lap was a little scary. I’ve never gone that fast ever before. Being on that big of a track is hard. When you’re going down the backstretch you just feel the air on the nose of the car just twitching. That’s something I have to get used to and it’s going to take time. But I think where we’re at right now is a good start. I think we progressively keep getting better and we’ll be in a good place for the race.”
As the daughter of X-Games legend Brian Deegan, it would be easy to assume she’s just an adrenaline junky who doesn’t take racing seriously. While she certainly does like the rush of racing cars, she’s intensely focused on being successful in racing. The one thing she does share with her father is the pressure to perform. Now that she has won, twice, in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, there are expectations she will continue to do so. And with every good performance, those expectations only increase. While the expectations of others are outside of her control, Deegan can control what she expects.
“I think learning the drafting process is going to take a lot of work and finesse to get used to. Minimizing my mistakes is going to be priority to keep us in the game. I honestly don’t know where I’ll stack up. I’m not expecting myself to go out there and win against guys like my teammates Christian (Eckes) and Michael (Self) – those guys are really good speedway racers. I think it’s going to take time for me to get better and better. I’ll give it everything I have.”
Practice for the General Tire 150 starts at 9 am ET, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 12 noon. The race is scheduled to start at 5:45 pm ET and will be televised live on FS2 with a same day replay on FS1 at 8 pm ET. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat for free at ARCARacing.com. Now users may join for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For tickets, log on to PoconoRaceway.com or call 800-RACEWAY.
-ARCA Menards Series Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo