Hailie Deegan completes rookie Truck series season
Hailie Deegan completed her rookie season in NASCAR Trucks with a P17 in Phoenix – a season with many ups and downs but that ultimately confirms the young woman as one of NASCAR's best prospects.
Having consistently made history in the NASCAR ladder, Hailie Deegan is widely regarded as one of the most interesting female prospects moving up the ranks of America's top stockcar championship. In 2019, Deegan won two races and finished third in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, before moving full-time to ARCA in 2020 with David Gilliland Racing.
Deegan claimed four Top-5 finishes, with two second places as best results, and made a one-off appearance in the NASCAR Truck Series at Kansas Speedway, where she was straight one pace and finished close to the Top-15.
In 2021, Deegan moved full time to Trucks, one of the three main national series, at the wheel of the David Gilliland Racing Ford #1 truck.
Throughout the season, Hailie showed impressive pace and became the first woman to ever finish in the top-10 outside Daytona, when she secured a 7th place at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Her progress towards the beginning of the season was initially hampered by NASCAR's format of not holding either practice and qualifying sessions due to the compressed schedule due to Covid. With testing being also restricted, Deegan had to learn all the new tracks when the green flag was waved for the race sessions.
At the fifth round, she scored her first Top-20 at Bristol, followed by a positive streak of 6 Top20s, interrupted by some bad luck and contacts in the latter stages of the championship. Nevertheless, when restrictions were eased, Deegan started to improve faster and went closer and closer to a top-10 finish – which eventually arrived at Madison.
At the Phoenix season finale, she continued to show great speed and had her best qualify of the season. The Arizona track meant good memories for Deegan, as she had scored one of her ARCA top ten results last year, with a seventh place. In 2019, Deegan had already done well at Phoenix with a strong fourth place from 17th on the grid.
"Crazy to think this is the last race of the season." – she commented.
"We have had our fair shade of ups and downs, but I can't thank everyone enough for their hard work. And specially those who supported me from the beginning of the season.
Let's go out with a bang today", she wrote before taking the start of the final round.
Hailie Deegan started the final race of the season with a promising tenth place in qualifying.
The championship fight saw Ben Rhodes, Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton battling for the title. Between the title contenders, Ben Rhodes was the best placed in qualifying with fourth, followed by Crafton – while the other two contenders Zane Smith and Hunter Nemechek had a more difficult session and were outside the top-10.
Having lost his title chances at the previous race, Sheldon Creed took the lead of the race at the green flag by overtaking polesitter Chandler Smith.
Nemechek's hopes also ended earlier than expected, when he was involved in a contact in Stage 1 with Kris Wright and dropped towards the back.
Smith reclaimed the top spot on lap 35 and won Stage 1; with a sixth place, Rhodes remained the favourite.
Hailie Deegan ran comfortably in the Top-15 until the first break but a slow stop after the first caution lost her some places.
Stage 2 had a similar outlook, with Creed leading the pack after a quick pit stop – before Chandler Smith could move into first place taking stage victory on the final lap.
Ben Rhodes was third at the end of the stage and moved closer to championship glory.
Meanwhile, the driver of the DGR #1 Ford recovered a couple of positions during the second phase and pitted for the final time from 20th.
Despite Smith and Friesen had managed to come back towards the front of the field in the final phases, Sheldon Creed was author of a strong start an passed both of them – but a caution halted the action a few moments later when Tate Fogleman's truck came to a stop. Creed continued to lead at the restart and held off the pressure of Zane Smith.
Deegan battled hard towards the Top-20 and tried to recover as many positions, but the race remained green for the rest of the event and she could not do better than P17.
In the final 20 laps, Chandler Smith and Stewart Friesen managed to overtake Creed, finishing the NASCAR Truck series finale in first and second position. Moving into third place at the end , Ben Rhodes became the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, beating Zane Smith – who was runner-up for the second year in a row.
Hailie Deegan concluded her season with a P17 at Phoenix Raceway, 17th in the standings with 360 points. While luck wasn't often on her side and a few unfortunate situations cost her some achievable Top-10s, Deegan continued to impress and will certainly be once again under the spotlight next year – whatever her racing plan will look like.
Deegan had in fact expressed interest in a part-time campaign in Xfinity, while ideally maintaining her full-time seat in Trucks.
The Californian's rookie season, crucially, gained her experience in all the tracks; with a second season under her belt she could target consistent results at the top.