Last fall when the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West visited the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track for the first time, Hailie Deegan came up just short of her first win. Thursday night, she wasn’t letting it slip away again as she made a last-lap pass to earn her second career series victory while making history along the way.
With her victory in the K&N West season opener, Deegan became the first female to lead the championship standings in any NASCAR series.
The Star Nursery 100 was a special event in the history of short track racing as it paired together NASCAR, World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and USAC Sprint Cars. With it being dirt race the event was modified, to the field having a practice/qualifying session, heat races and a feature.
Deegan was fast throughout the previous practice sessions but come race time the speeds fell off. The young California driver explained that a small issue cost them in her heat race.
“We weren't down on speed in the heat race, my pedal extension for the gas fell off and that caused me to drop back and start deeper in the field for the feature than I wanted to,” Deegan told Speed51.com.
Early in the feature there were multiple lead changes with Austin Reed and Derek Kraus sharing the lead multiple times for the first half of the race. At the break on Lap 51 drivers made adjustment and changed tires. It seemed like Jones, Deegan and Joey Tanner had three of the best cars at the end of the first half.
At the start of the second half, Jones battled with Kraus before taking the lead. Once Jones had the lead, he would pull away to a large leading almost half a straight away. With just about 20 laps to go, it clicked for Deegan to focus in and go for the win. Deegan was able to chip away at the lead and capitalize on Jones mistakes from a super slick track.
With just three laps to go Jones and Deegan were within a car length. As they came to the white flag Deegan got a big run off turn number four and shot to the inside of Jones in turn one as he attempted to get by a lapped car. Deegan worked the low side exiting turn two to take the lead. Going into turn three Deegan knew she had one job to do and she’d been practicing.
“I’ve spent time with my driving coach preparing for this exact moment in carts and that's getting to the lowside and parking it down there on the final turn. That's the best you can do because they can’t really move you out of the way,” said Deegan.
Even with contact from Jones, Deegan was able to hold him off collect her second career NASCAR K&N West Pro Series victory. With the win, Deegan becomes the first female to ever lead the championship points standings in one of NASCAR’s major touring series.
Jones would finish out second in his rookie run while Joey Tanner would come in third in his first ever K&N start. Kody Vanderwal and Todd Souza rounded out the top 5.
The young Jones was happy with his finish but feels like he lost one he shouldn’t.
“Hailie did a great job at the end there, the lapped car got in my way and I had nowhere to go and she was able to get the low side. It’s tough to be in second knowing that we had such a good car in the race,” said Jones.
Deegan celebrated with a monster burnout on the front stretch to packed house of fans cheering her on. She’s beginning to turn a lot of heads, including some fans. One fan yelled down during post race celebration, “See you at Daytona next year."
Deegan responded to that fan’s statement after the race.
“If things keep going this way, I would love to be racing Daytona next year,” said Deegan. “But I feel like I still have alot to learn and the K&N Series and cars are a great tool for me to do it in and make me a better racer”.
You can see a recap of the action and more on our Trackside Now coverage by clicking here.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track
|15||84||Rich Delong III|
-Story by: Jeremy Anders, Speed51.com Northwest Editor - Twitter: @janders2115
-Photo credit: Speed51.com