Each year, Speed51 hosts the Short Track Draft, evaluating the top short track racing prospects in North America and determining who is the number-one pick each spring. More than 100 industry experts will submit their ballots in the coming days, sharing the young racers they would choose to build a race team around.
Today, we’ll look at another one of the top prospects in this year’s Draft.
In 2018, Hailie Deegan made history by becoming the first female driver to win in what’s now the ARCA Menards Series West when she won at Meridian Speedway. Last year’s number four pick backed it up in 2019 with two wins at the Las Vegas Dirt Track and Colorado National Speedway and a third-place finish in the series points standings. She made the jump to Ford and DGR-Crosley for the full ARCA tilt in 2020 and started the season off with a second-place run at Daytona.
With all that being said, she has to be the presumed favorite going into Thursday’s Short Track Draft results. However, the Short Track Draft field is wide open in 2020 and a top overall pick is anything but guaranteed at this point.
In the two full-time seasons she ran in ARCA West, she won three races and finished in the top-five 13 times in 28 starts. In a two-year stretch of strong parity in the series, her three wins ranked second among drivers who competed in the series, just behind then-Bill McAnally Racing teammate Derek Kraus.
In her three wins, Deegan proved she can get the job done when it mattered most. All three wins came via a last-lap pass, and it would be the only lap she had led in two of those three races. And while some would discredit how they were earned, let us remind ourselves that in racing, they don’t ask how, they ask how many.
While Deegan has had success in the ARCA Menards Series West, one thing that could hold her back is what she’s done in the ARCA East Series against what one could argue is stronger competition. In 10 ARCA East starts (not counting any of the East/West combination events at Iowa Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway), she hasn’t finished better than ninth. Two of her closest competitors for the number one draft slot, Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs, have won in both series during that timeframe.
One thing Deegan has going for her is her strong social media presence. She makes it a point to be active and interact with fans on all social media platforms, as seen when she started a virtual autograph trend on Twitter. When used right, social media can be a driving force in climbing up the ladder, and there are not many other drivers in any racing discipline who use it batter.
She also has the backing from Monster Energy, a partnership formed during her Off-Road Truck days with father, Brian Deegan. This last offseason, Deegan made the move from Toyota Racing Development to Ford Racing Development with hopes to move up the racing ladder.
Only time will tell if she will become the number-one overall pick in the Speed51 Short Track Draft, but she will surely be a favorite to be selected in that top spot. Whether or not she takes the top spot remains to be seen.
Find out where Hailie Deegan will be selected on Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m. ET on Speed51, as the top 10 picks will be announced in the first-ever Short Track Draft Selection Show.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Meg Oliphant/NASCAR