At 21, Hailie Deegan is already at a career crossroads in NASCAR

  • Hailie Deegan is gearing up for a third straight season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
  • In 2023, he will race a Ford F-150 for ThorSport Racing, a team in contention for the best team in the Truck Series, a team with five drivers’ championships since 2013.
  • At ThorSport, Deegan will be part of a four-truck dream of sorts that will also feature Crafton, Rhodes and Ty Majeski.

    Hailie Deegan was heralded, by many of us in the media, as NASCAR’s next big thing in December 2019 when Ford Performance added her to their roster of development drivers.

    Deegan, then just 18, seemed to be on the fast track to the Cup Series, and that fast track seemed justified after a strong third-place finish in season points in the 2020 ARCA Menards Series. to a quick promotion to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2021.

    However, the road to the Cup Series has at least slowed as Deegan is gearing up for a third straight season in the Truck Series while sporting a NASCAR resume that barely cries out for promotion even to the Xfinity Series. .

    However, there is a twist in the story that will arrive in 2023.

    Hailie Deegan finished 21st in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings in 2022.

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    Deegan, 21, and his partner Ford Performance will move to arguably the best team in the Truck Series after reaching an agreement with ThorSport Racing next season. ThorSport drivers have won four Truck Series championships since 2013, most recently with Ben Rhodes in 2021. Matt Crafton won titles for the team in 2013, 2014 and 2019.

    ThorSport, in addition to bringing in Deegan, is moving on from Toyota and will introduce Ford F-150-branded trucks next season. And with ThorSport’s operations team and resources behind her, this could be a season for Deegan.

    Fans can find out if the next big thing in sports is someone to really get excited about. If there’s added pressure with the move, Deegan is doing his best not to let it show.

    “I’ve been used to pushing all my life,” Deegan said during a news conference last week. “It’s been on me from the start, so at the end of the day there’s pressure for a reason, and I feel like if you can’t deal with the pressure then you probably shouldn’t have that pressure on you.”

    “I think going out there and doing the best I can, working as hard as I can for it, trying my best and doing everything that I’m capable of and everybody else sees that, that we’re obligated to do it.” be more successful.”

    For the record, there hasn’t been much success to speak of in NASCAR for Deegan. In 46 Truck Series starts driving Fords for David Gilliland Racing, Deegan posted just three top-10 finishes. He crashed in five of 23 races in 2022. He finished 17th in the points standings in 2021 before moving back to 21st in 2022.

    Clearly, a change of scenery is worth trying.

    “I believe in myself,” Deegan said. “I think we were probably missing some pieces of the puzzle because there are so many pieces to the puzzle. You get to a point in your development where you have to take the next step and I think ThorSport is a very established team and they have a very established path to success and yet over the years they have consistently been so successful even with everything. the changes in the development of the Truck Series and with the trucks themselves. They have been such a good and consistent team that I feel like this is going to be a good year for me.”

    It’s a good bet that the folks in the glass offices at both Ford and NASCAR expect so. The series and its marketing machine have been patiently waiting for someone to become the next woman to make an impact in the Cup Series since Danica Patrick retired after the 2018 Daytona 500.

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    Danica Patrick’s last race in the NASCAR Cup Series was the 2018 Daytona 500.

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    Patrick has been called a trailblazer and someone who broke NASCAR’s glass ceiling to reach Cup. Remarkably, however, no woman has reached Cup in the five years since Patrick’s last start. And before that, you have to go back to Shawna Robinson in 2002 to find a woman behind the wheel of a NASCAR Cup Series car in competition.

    Mark Rushbrook, global director of motorsports for Ford Performance, sees growth in Deegan’s game over the past two seasons.

    “We love seeing development drivers progress and advance on track and off track, and to see Hailie’s maturity in terms of how she evaluates a car or truck on the track, she can break it down and articulate it to her team. boss and the team to set the direction the car needs to go,” Rushbrook said. “I think (she) has made significant progress both on track and when she’s working in the simulator with the team.

    “I think this is the next opportunity with a team that will be around him, the people that will be around him to give him the chance to go one level further.”

    At ThorSport, Deegan will be part of a four-truck dream of sorts that will also feature Crafton, Rhodes and Ty Majeski. Majeski nearly joined teammates Crafton and Rhodes as Truck Series champions last season, going all the way to Championship Four.

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    Halie Deegan made her NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in Las Vegas in October, where she finished a strong 13th-place finish. She hopes to have a few more starts in that series in 2023.

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    “The quality of the teammates and the experience these guys have here is incredible,” Deegan said. “Just talking and having those conversations and seeing how open and willing they are to help you and make sure you’re as comfortable as possible is amazing, and I think that’s invaluable.

    “You have to have teammates who are willing to work with you, who are willing to do everything they can to make sure you’re in a good place and able to work with you on the track and go into races with a game plan and have those conversations beforehand, or if one teammate is running better than the other to be able to have that comfortable conversation of asking, ‘Hey, what are you feeling here? What changes did you guys make? What did you like? Didn’t you like it?’

    Make no mistake about it. Rushbrook and Ford are still fully committed to their prodigy with the same excitement they showed when they introduced Deegan to the NASCAR media in 2019.

    “We are a family business,” Rushbrook said. “We like to be committed to the people who are part of our program and give them every opportunity to excel, excel and succeed, so we wanted to give Hailie that opportunity with the right team and the right people around her to give the next step to move forward.

    “She’s shown the potential that we’ve seen in her all along and the growth, and this is that opportunity to go one level further.”

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