Busy weekend of on-track action for Hailie Deegan at Kansas
A third overall final place in her Rookie ARCA Menards season; her NASCAR Truck Series debut and a big promotion for 2021: it was a remarkable weekend for Hailie Deegan at Kansas Speedway.
The ARCA Menards season finale and her first appearance in the 2020 Nascar Gander RV & Outdoors Truck championship: that's how Hailie Deegan's plan for the weekend looked, as she prepared for a back-to-back night of action at Kansas Speedway.
Deegan entered the final round of the 2020 ARCA season sitting in third place in the drivers standings, as she was able to reach four top-five and 16 top-ten finishes out of the twenty races in her series rookie campaign.
Kansas Speedway already hosted a ARCA Menards round earlier this year, with the DGR Crosley lady finishing in another solid top-ten (P9).
"This is a big weekend for me." - she said prior to the race event. "It's the ARCA season finale and my first Truck start at Kansas. I was happy when they announced the shedule change so now I can run the ARCA race first on Friday and get those extra laps before racing the Truck on Saturday."
"Before I was going to have to run both races back to back on Friday, with the Truck race first, wich was not ideal for me."
"I think our team has come a long way since was raced at Kansas in July. We were very loose late in the race last time, so this time we should be able to go off our notes and get the set-up closer so we can really dial it in during the brief practice we get Friday afternoon"- she added.
Based on the owner points standing so far, Deegan took the ARCA start at Kansas from sixth and was protagonist of some great opening laps as she moved up to third - while the championship leader on his run for the 2020 title Bret Holmes led the field.
Following a contact with Ty Gibbs, the Californian lady dropped to fourth on lap 10 and then successfully defended her position until the first race break on lap 31.
Corey Heim clinched the top spot from Holmes on lap 19, and started his dominant and solitary run.
The other championship contender, Micheal Self, suffered from fuel pressure issues which forced him to drop one lap down, with the chance to rejoin the pack after the first break. But, that that point, with a very competitive Bret Holmes in the top positions, his run for the title was compromised.
Lap 34 marked the race restart and Deegan fought for third place throughout the second stage of the race, which went to a second break on lap 61 with the 19-year old from Temecula in 4th position.
Holmes tried to claim the leadership with an aggressive restart but the 18-year old driver of the #10 Craftsman Toyota seemed unreachable at the season finale and held first place.
More intense racing action was to come for Deegan in the final stage of the race where the other DGR Crosley team member Dylan Lupton attacked her for fourth and moved up on Hailie.
With a little over 20 laps to go, Hailie Deegan was running in fifth and maintained position until the final lap of the race when a battle with Drew Dollar ended with a contact that put him in the wall and demoted the young lady in sixth. Micheal Self took advantage from the situation and advanced to fifth - a position that still didn't allow him to rejoin the championship party, as he was forced to watch second-place finisher Bret Holmes being crowned 2020 ARCA Menards series champion.
Corey Heim won the Speediatrics 150 event, while the third spot went to Derek Griffith.
Deegan conquered her 17th top-ten finish out of 20 rounds, as well as the Bounty Rookie Challenge victory and a great final third place in the general point standings.
"Honestly I gave him room and ran the top." - she commented regarding the incident with Dollar. "I made the pass in turn one and two and then he had a nice run on the bottom and side drafted me. We were side by side on the backstretch and went into turn three and I gave him a bunch of room because I knew there was a lapped car on the bottom, so I was like 'if I pass him on the top awesome, if he clears me whatever', but I just feel bad for the Wastequip and Toter guys. It seems like every race they sponsor me we seem to get wrecked by Drew. It happens, but I'm super fortunate to have them on board, they have been supporting me no metter what in bad and good races. I've been very fortunate for the people I have behind me"- said Hailie Deegan after the final ARCA race at Kansas.
But it was no time to relax for the teenager: on the following day, she made her Truck series debut at the Clean Harbors 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck event.
"I'm super excited for my first Truck Series race at Kansas. This will be a big learning experience for me and it will help me qualify for any race I may do next year." - she added.
"It will be challenging with no practice or qualifying, and having to start in the back based on points. The competition in the Truck Series is very good, which will make this that much harder, but it will help my development so much. This is a big step for me and I'm excited to take on this learning curve"- were Deegan's words before her Truck debut.
With no qualifying or even practice scheduled and points used to determine the starting grid positions, Hailie Deegan took the green flag from the back of the pack - and with a lot of trucks separating her from the front-runners.
Stage 1 was dominated by Sheldon Creed, who reached the first break on lap 30 as the race leader in a rather uneventful first part of the race, while Hailie Deegan was able to overtake nine competitors and placed her #17 Ford Performance F-150 in 25th.
Stage 2 was marked by a collision that involved playoff runner Tyler Ankrum and forced him to retire while, ahead, Creed continued his perfect run at the top.
Hailie Deegan continued her comeback and made up an impressive number of positions, ending the second stage in 19th - before pitting to remove some debris picked up by her truck. She took advantage from a lap 40 caution, called out after Ankrum's accident and pitted at the right time.
The final stage offered more action: Creed's leadership was under threat, initially from Zane Smith, who passed him to led the group briefly before being overtaken by Brett Moffit. The latter reached the top with a few laps to the chequered flag.
Moffit and Smith battled for victory and, after a contact, Smith had to give up his victory hopes. With the race in overtime, Moffit had to defend his leading position until the very final seconds from the return of Creed.
At the end, Bret Moffit crossed the finish line in first and won the event preceding Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill in third.
Deegan showed once again a convincing performance also in the third stage and ended 16th after making a final pit stop on lap 117 for additional fuel in her #17 Ford Truck. She concluded a clean and competitive race which allowed her to reach the highest-finishing position for a female driver at Truck series debut.
"My goal was just to finish the race." - she commented. "It's crazy comparated to ARCA racing how intense this racing is and how competitive it is. You are trying to block one guy, but pass the other, and the next thing you know, you've got two guys blowing by you if you don't make a succesful pass."
"It's a lot tougher racing, but I think we definitely had a successful day." - she explained. "We coul have gotten into a few bad situations there, but we stayed out of them. I got a little nervous there on the green-flag pit stops since we almost ran out of gas. At the end of the day, it was such a high-intensity pace of racing, I'm looking forward to doing more of it"- said Deegan.
And, in fact, as a conclusion of this remarkable weekend, Hailie Deegan announced that she will make the next step in her career and will be moving to Nascar Camping World Truck Series in 2021 - in a schedule that starts from Daytona International Speedway on February 12.
"I'm excited for this next step in my career with Ford Performance. I have raced trucks in the off-road world but to now to have the opportunity to race trucks next season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a dream come true. I have some great partners already behind me for the next season. I can't wait for Daytona 2021 to get here."