Deegan ends 7th after solid race at Phoenix
Stockcar star Hailie Deegan takes her second top-10 of the season after a caution-disrupted race that keeps her in second overall position.
The second ARCA Menards Series round from Phoenix Raceway provided again plenty of action and wasn't certainly short of drama, cautions and restarts.
New NASCAR sensation Hailie Deegan, coming from her historical second place finish at the season opener at the Daytona Lucas Oil 200, was back to the series on friendly soil: the Californian had in fact previously finished fourth in the 2019 ARCA event at the Nevada venue, as she entered selected races last year for Venturini Motorsports.
Driving the McAnally Racing #99 Toyota, 18-year old Gracie Trotter joined the field after competing in the opening rounds of the ARCA Menards Series East and West, where she collected a fourth place at Las Vegas.
Deegan was ninth fastest in both free practice session and in qualifying, as Ty Gibbs edged Daytona-winner Michael Self for pole position. Trotter lined up in 13th after a good qualifying run.
In the opening stages, Ty Gibbs engaged in an exciting battle with Self for the lead, but the driver of the #18 Monster Energy Toyota ultimately opened up a gap and drove comfortably ahead of his competitors. Both Deegan and Trotter gained positions, with the Californian lady advancing from ninth to seventh. The first caution came as soon as lap 11, when Tom Berte hit trouble at turn 3. It was a relatively short interruption though, and the race resumed with Ty Gibbs managing his leadership from the attacks of the experienced Self.
By lap 42, Hailie Deegan brought herself up to sixth, while Trotter was also just outside the top-10. A second yellow flag ignited more cautions, as McGhee spun and then Scelzi found the wall in two separate incidents.
On one of the restarts, the first big turn of events shook up the classify: Michael Self suffered electrical issues and lost contact with the leading group, leaving Ty Gibbs in a comfortable position.
Self, who had seemingly found a fix for his technical gremlins, saw his night going from bad to worse when on lap 52 he was tagged from behind and spun around, causing another yellow flag.
Gracie Trotter, who had been running as high as seventh and was eyeing a strong result, was unfortunately the next driver to endure technical issues: the young lady stopped her #99 Toyota at turn one and retired with an engine failure.
At the restart, Deegan moved up into third place and remained in the top-5 for most of the second half of the race.
Among more caution interruptions and pitstops, Michael Self completed an outstanding comeback through the field, ultimately regaining a place in the top three in the closing stages. Deegan's DGR-Crosley teammate Thad Moffitt crashed on lap 127 and most of the front runners took the opportunity to pit for the last time under caution. Deegan stopped and changed the right-side tyres for the final time and rejoined in third.
But the big winner strategy-wise was Chandler Smith, who chose not to stop twice (to change all four tyres, as per ARCA regulations) and went into the lead. Deegan lost some precious positions in the restart and dropped to seventh.
A series of more chaotic action led to new yellows and to an overtime finish. When the race was about to go green-white-chequered, race officials showed the white flag, indicating the final lap. Ty Gibbs, race dominator for large part of the night, had to settle for third, while Chandler Smith claimed victory by 0.022 seconds over Venturin Motorsports' teammate Michael Self. Hailie Deegan, after a very solid race, could not gain more places in the final lap and crossed the finish line in P7.
"We had a good car after about 75 laps when the track started tightening up." - commented Deegan. "The car started to turn really good and had good drive off, so I was pumped about that. Every time we would put two tires on it, it would mess up the balance a little bit, but then it would come to us."
"For some reason I spun the tires on the second- to-last restart, so that messed us up a little bit, and then the officials decided to throw the green and white flags together to get a one-lap shootout instead of two. I feel like we could have gotten a few more spots if we had another lap, but it is what it is. Thanks to Toter and Ford for their support today and I'm looking forward to Salem."
The second consecutive strong finish for Deegan keeps the lady from Temecula, California, in second place in the championship standings, behind Michael Self, 13 points ahead.
After the General Tire 150 at Phoenix, the ARCA Menards Series will hit again the track on April 19th at Salem Speedway. It will also be the second race of the Sioux Chief Showdown, a series within the series.
In Hailie's words:
"Was in a good position with a few laps to go. Made a mistake on my part and spun the tires on the second to last restart. Of course it had to be the most important restart. It happens. Learned from it and gonna come back to the next race stronger!""