First NASCAR Truck Top-10 for Hailie Deegan
Hailie Deegan wrote another small page of NASCAR history by clinching her first top ten in the Camping World Truck series: she became the first woman to do so in an event not held at Daytona.
As NASCAR entered the 2021 playoff rounds, Hailie Deegan made her return to the World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison for last weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota 200 presented by CK Power event, on the same track where she had clinched a ninth place last year in the ARCA Menards series. WWTR was also the first 1.25 miles track of the 2021 NASCAR Truck series season, and the DGR driver continued her progress in the series with her first the Top Ten of the career after the unlucky weekend at Watkins Glen - ultimately finished in 19th position despite a strong performance. Traditionally as the start of the playoff rounds, the Illinois venue offered an entertaining race with some pivotal moments, from the green flag to Deegan's historic result - with a curious stoppage in between. Pole sitter John Hunter Nemechek lost the lead after a bad start and paved the way for Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed who battled for the first spot in the initial phase. The first caution was deployed on lap 25, caused by Chandler Smith. Meanwhile, Hailie Deegan ran within the Top 15 having recovered several positions from 19th on the starting grid. In the remaining second part of Stage 1, Hailie Deegan survived another couple of yellow flags and finished 17th. Ahead, Zane Smith fought against Creed for the stage winner's point.
A curious issue at the Illinois circuit resulted in a long red flag break in Stage 2, as a power outage halted the action. The race returned to green with 40 laps to go and a solid performance by the #01 Monster Energy Ford driver would give Deegan the fourteenth place before the end of the second race segment.
At the front of the field, Sheldon Creed posted a series of fastest laps that put him on top of the Stage 2 standings as well. John Hunter Nemechek had a difficult round and had an early end to Stage 3 when he stopped with 30 laps to go. Hailie Deegan was continuing to climb the order and reached the Top Ten before the yellow flag. The Californian driver remained in contention for the top ten at the restart, but a few laps later, an incident between Gray and Hocevar would send the race to overtime, as Sheldon Creed continued to lead the way at the top of the pack. Stage 3 would also see the retirement of other of the playoff contenders like Todd Gilliland and Austin Hill. The final lap attempt was finally the moment of glory for Hailie Deegan, who recovered positions with a great restart and took the chequered flag in seventh - clinching her first top ten of her career in NASCAR Trucks. After a remarkable run starting from 19th, Deegan scored the result that was often in her potential in many rounds this year, but a series of unfortunate events and a lack of running in practice surely marked her rookie campaign in the series. The seventh place at Madison feels like unlocking her potential and if she can carry momentum, Deegan is set for a great end of the season. The result also marks a small yet important chapter in the motorsport history books, as Deegan became the first woman to score a Top Ten in a NASCAR Truck event not held at Daytona. It was also the third-best finish by a woman in the series. "Man, what a night! So beyond happy we were able to put a good run together finishing P7." - Deegan said. "Going into this race I made some new goals for myself and one of those was to get as many top 10s to finish out this season as I can. This is just the beginning" - wrote Hailie Deegan after the race. By winning the World Wide Technology Raceway round ahead of Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes, Sheldon Creed scored an important result in the playoffs, with the series that will now return to action at Darlington Raceway on September 5.