Deegan’s Truck Series Career Starts Now

Hailie Deegan made her first appearance in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Kansas Speedway. (Image: Ford Performance.)

The most anticipated NASCAR national touring debut in quite some time unfolded Saturday afternoon. The polarizing 19-year-old Hailie Deegan made her first appearance in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Kansas Speedway.

Pre-Race

Piloting the No. 17 Built Ford Tough Ford F-150, everyone knew it would be an absolute learning curve because the moment the field took the green flag, she would turn her first-ever laps in a truck. First-ever on a concrete surface that is.

A commercial aired during the telecast where she was seen running on a dirt track. The ad also served as an official announcement: Deegan will compete in the Truck Series for DGR-Crosley in 2021. This explained why she had #TruckinInto2021 on her hood and rear bumper.

Besides the advertisement, Deegan had zero practice or qualifying time. As a result, all Deegan had for track time was competing in Friday’s ARCA Menards Series finale. During this race, a last-lap tangle with Drew Dollar resulted in a sixth-place finish.

Nevertheless, ARCA’s Rookie of the Year knew the 100-lap race and previous experience at the 1.5-mile circuit was instrumental.

Fortunately, Deegan had two renowned voices in her ears with Michael McDowell’s crew chief Drew Blickensderfer calling the shots, and Kevin Harvick’s spotter Tim Fedewa helping her navigate through the competition.

Deegan prepares to make her first laps in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Kansas Speedway. (Image: Ford Performance Social Media.)

Deegan prepares to make her first laps in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Kansas Speedway. (Image: Ford Performance Social Media.)

Stage 1

Once Deegan got through the ropes of what RPMs she needed to run and figuring out a choose cone game plan, the 34th place starter was off to the races. It was worth noting, the wind and conditions played a crucial role all race long.

The Californian began pickpocketing the competition and after five laps, she had moved up to the 27th spot. Despite some early moves, her team continued to remind her to take deep breaths. Her crew noted there was plenty of racing to go and a lot of laps to complete.

The earliest radio communication had Deegan describing her truck as being a little loose on corner entry. However, there were no concerns about her Ford F-150 feeling tight.

By the halfway point of Stage 1, Deegan was running 25th (at one point she was 23rd), yet, she was frequently clocking in the 33-second range. This was in comparison to the 32-second marks of the leaders. Fedewa informed her that her lap times were good, as she notched a 32.80.

Nonetheless, Deegan continued to lose ground on the leaders as she went deep into the corners, resulting in a tight truck. With three laps left in the stage, Deegan had to keep an eye on Colin Garrett for the free pass battle. Garrett would stay on the lead lap, but the same couldn’t be said about Deegan. She went a lap down after being passed by Sheldon Creed on the final lap of the stage.

Deegan crossed the line in 25th and earned the free pass by being the first truck one lap down. Once the stage ended, Deegan said her truck was “super unstable” in the corners and by herself. This would require some adjustments during her first live pit stop on the national level.

The No. 17 crew works on Deegan’s truck at Kansas Speedway. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Stage 2

Air pressure and adjustments were completed for Deegan, who described her truck as being “so loose.”  She restarted from the 24th spot.

The first major hurdle came on Lap 38 after a series of crashes collected Tyler Ankrum, Tanner Gray, Parker Kligerman, Colin Garrett, Ben Rhodes, Clay Greenfield, Raphael Lessard, and David Gravel.

Deegan went to the bottom to avoid the mayhem, but there were concerns of damage after she ran into the back of Dawson Cram.

The damage wasn’t bad and once water temperatures began dropping, she knew everything was alright. That would change, however, because the race was halted for the ninth time of 2020 on Lap 40.

“I feel like I’m running on eggshells coming into that stage before,” Deegan said. She continued to describe her truck, “I was turning that wheel so hard. It made it so twitchy.” 

After a 7 minute and 33-second stoppage, Deegan came down pit road to clean some debris off her grill. The decision to pit was made after Deegan told Blickensderfer that her water temperatures went up to 260 degrees before going down to 250. Even with the cleanup, Deegan said it hadn’t gone down to the ideal 240.

Fedewa told her to have fun and keep her nose clean as she started the second half of Stage 2 where she rolled off 18th. Five laps later, temperatures were now at 220 which was encouraging for the entire No. 17 squad and that’s when the vibe blossomed.

Her lap times improved and she was broke into the 32-second zone. Additionally, she gained ground on Kligerman, who was dealing with the effects of a damaged truck. Finally, she passed the former multi-time series winner with two laps to spare.

Deegan crossed the line 19th. She noted that her truck was still unstable and needed to be tightened up a bit more.

Stage 3

The final stage started with another learning curve as Deegan’s pit stop exit was rough. It was something she had not gotten used to because live stops aren’t common ground in ARCA.

Deegan chose the top groove and restarted in the 14th spot. Her goal was to simply just finish and focus on her race. The latter, emphasized by Fedewa. He promised her that if she did that, it would be a positive outing.

By Lap 79, Deegan was 15th and free of Austin Wayne Self, who her team described as a “kidney stone.” The next set of targets included rookie Tate Fogleman and part-timer Ryan Truex. Deegan passed Fogleman with ease, leaving her to chase Truex for the 13th position.

She accomplished this task by Lap 87. However, it would not be easy going as both drivers were hot on her tail for the next couple of laps. Eventually, Truex regained his spot. This stuck Deegan in the middle and she dropped back to 16th.

On Lap 94, Deegan described her truck as beginning to get tight on exit. She also asked how many sets of tires remained for her team. At this time, the discussion surrounding her final pit stop began. The intention was to change right-side tires and add fuel once the race came down to its final 15 laps.

At that point, Deegan had reclaimed 14th and was again dealing with Truex, who was all over the place. Deegan reported being a little tight on exit. Blickensderfer told her she would pit for an air pressure adjustment, two tires, and fuel.

Once she was ready to pit, Fedewa instructed her to rely on the Hollywood Casino billboard in Turn 3 (two before the GEICO sign) to woe her Ford down and be conservative.

Leaders started to make their final pit stops by Lap 100. This propelled Deegan into the top-10 for the first time all day. She ran as high as second with 20 laps remaining.

Two laps later, Deegan declared she was running out of fuel. This forced her to pit earlier than expected. After making her two-tire stop, she exclaimed, “Something’s wrong! Something’s wrong!”

Once she got her truck rolling, the worriedness was gone, and the team tried to put that ordeal behind her. She was now in 16th with 14 laps remaining.

In the closing laps, Deegan was in full rhythm with her truck. She was consistently running 32-second laps before the final caution came out following a wild spin by race leader Zane Smith on Lap 13.

Overtime

Deegan was now a lap down in 15th, eliminating any shot of snatching a top-10 result. However, it did not take the smile off her face because racing can be so much fun.

In fact, it was the most fun she has had all year. And reassuring to her team, it was much better than running an ARCA car. As animated as she was, there was a race to finish and she had two more laps to get an even better result.

The top lane got a slow start thanks to Johnny Sauter spinning his tires. This caused an accordion effect throughout the field. However, it didn’t phase Deegan as she was well instructed to avoid the clog-up. When she finally took the checkered flag, she wound up a proudful 16th.

Saturday provided a solid first outing for Deegan in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. (Image: Ford Performance)

Post-Race

Overall, it was a solid debut for the Temecula native. More so as both Blickensderfer and Fedewa were proud of her effort. Deegan said it was a lot tougher running in the Truck Series compared to ARCA, but it was a successful debut in her eyes.

I think my goal is to just finish the race. It’s crazy compared to ARCA racing how intense and competitive the Truck Series is. You’re trying to block one guy but pass the other. The next thing you know, you got two guys blowing by you if you don’t make a successful pass,” said Deegan, who scored the best series debut finish by a female driver.

Deegan continued, “It’s a lot tougher racing, but I think we had a successful day. We could have gotten into a few bad situations, but we stayed out of them. I got a little nervous down in the pit stop because I almost ran out of gas under the green flag stop…At the end of the day, it was such a high-intensity pace of racing. I’m looking forward to doing more of it.”

Time will tell if Kansas is it for her 2020 racing season, but one thing is certain, Deegan is still finalizing some deals before officially declaring for 2021 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the Truck Series.

For now, she totally felt more comfortable being in a series where thriving is bright as day.

Be sure to stay up-to-date on Deegan’s efforts by following her, and DGR-Crosley, on Twitter

luisdtorres94@hotmail.com'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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