While it’s been an up and down start to 2022 for Hailie Deegan, she’s intent on giving her absolute best to turn her season around.
As the 20-year-old Temecula, California native considers her sophomore season with the No. 1 David Gilliland Racing Ford F-150 team, she realizes how she can improve upon her efforts.
“I think last year, I was lacking a little confidence in myself, just like when you go from running top three, top five every single week in K&N, ARCA, that kind of stuff – able to hop in dirt cars and do really good,” Deegan said. “And then all of a sudden, you get in the Truck Series and you’re like, ‘I’m getting in wrecks every single weekend.
“‘Is my reaction time terrible? What’s going on?’ I live a little bit sometimes too much in the moment and I feel like it kind of hurts me because if there’s a problem right now, I want to fix it right now.”
Intent on making things right off the get go, she understands that patience and keeping her nose clean are intangibles that could improve her efforts in the summer months.
“That’s not always the case when it comes to racing stock cars,” she observed. “It doesn’t always work out like that, so I’ve kind of had to get used to that and kind of accept what I was working with and making the best of it, and trying to fix little things as we go and not try to fix everything right then in the moment.
“It’s tough. I mean, it’s very, very tough, but I think we’re just trying to do the best we can right now and just kind of get as many good finishes as we can, staying out of all the wrecks happening because I swear, every single race in the Truck Series, only half the field finishes.”
Attrition has certainly been the name of the game in the tough, paint trading Truck Series. Deegan recognizes how tenacious and merciless her competition may be on every given race day.
All told, she recognizes how she plays a pivotal role with inspiring women into motorsports.
“I love seeing girls get into racing, especially from a young age,” Deegan said. “When you see little girls around the racetrack or even coming up to me and saying ‘I started racing because of you.’ Or have their parents come up to me and say, ‘I got my daughter into racing because she watched you race and it made her want to get into racing.’
“I love that. I honestly think that some of my best motivation comes from that – to show that I’m inspiring girls to get into racing and show that it is possible. Yeah, it may be hard, but it’s possible.”
Without a doubt, Deegan keeps her head up high, trucking along, excelling, thriving and understanding what it takes to thrive in the national ranks of NASCAR.
Moreover, Deegan, ranked 24th heading into Saturday’s Door Dash 250 at Sonoma Raceway, can’t wait to return home to California.
“I’m excited,” she remarked. “I’ve raced at Sonoma before in the K&N Series. I’ve qualified on the pole there before and it’s fun. I mean, I kind of got used to, when I raced on the west coast in the K&N Series, driving on those tracks and they had no grip, none, because they’re sitting in the sun for all those years and it just lacks a lot of grip.
“That’s kind of what I got used to and I feel like that’s why I was pretty decent at Sonoma when we went there for the first time. You kind of get the luxury once you start racing on the east coast that these tracks have a lot more grip than they do on the west coast, so I’m excited to go back there.”
Similarly, Deegan has an abundance of resources around her to capitalize on a special homecoming race at Sonoma. Along with her experience in the ARCA Menards Series West division, she’s taken to the sim with some input from a fellow Blue Oval racer.
“I think I’ve got some good notes from the year’s past of me going there,” she said. “Obviously, the Trucks haven’t been there since ‘98, so it’s hard to go off notes from then, but I think having that little bit of experience in the West Series is gonna help a lot – just firing off in practice, knowing what you want out of the truck, knowing how it kind of should feel and have at least an idea of it, and knowing those kind of markers on the track, so I’m excited.
“I’ve been using the Ford sim a lot and trying to get some more laps there. Joey Hand has been helping me on the sim, just kind of perfecting and tweaking little things that, in his opinion as a road course racer, could make me better on road courses.”
Focused and intent on delivering a strong finish on Saturday, Deegan looks to carry some of her sim experiences to the unique, 1.99-mile road course. Ultimately, while her No. 1 Ford may not have a SiriusXM radio subscription, it’s safe to say her music taste is quite the mix music station in waiting.
“I think it kind of depends what kind of mood I’m in,” Deegan said when asked about a song that best epitomizes her. “My categories vary. One day it’s like 90’s rap. Sometimes it’s kind of sad, like Lana Del Rey, and then you have my old 80’s rock. I have three different genres I go to depending on my mood.”