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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Hailie Deegan earns hard-fought 23rd place finish at COTA

Hailie Deegan maximised her finish in her first road course start of the season, successfully negotiating an action-packed final stage to finish in 23rd at COTA, therefore collecting important points for the owner’s championship.

Hailie Deegan, AM Racing, NASCAR Xfinity, 2024 Circuit of the Americas
Photo credits: AM Racing

Continuing her progress as a rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Hailie Deegan maximised her potential by rallying to a 23rd place result at Circuit of the Americas. In her first road course appearance in the series, it was a challenging event for Deegan who faced a nervy wait to find out whether she had initially qualified for the race.

Lining up 35th, the AM Racing driver finished stage one in 29th, stage two in 36th, before superbly negotiating a chaotic final stage to finish on the lead lap in 23rd position.

Aiming to bounce back from her final stage retirement at Phoenix, Deegan was looking to secure her best result of the season at the Circuit of the Americas. With Hailie being a competent road racer, the event would serve as the perfect opportunity to kickstart a season which has shown promise, without the results to show for it.

In three previous starts at Circuit of the Americas, Deegan had achieved a best result of 14th which came in the 2021 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event for David Gilliland Racing.

AM Racing had previously made one NASCAR Xfinity Series appearance at the circuit, fielding a car for Brett Moffitt last season, with Deegan making her series debut at the track. This combination of inexperience led to the sole twenty-minute practice session proving valuable for Deegan and the team alike. Completing seven laps, Hailie’s fastest time came on her final lap of the session which placed her 33rd.

With a competitive entry list and two cars set to miss the race, only the top-33 drivers from qualifying were guaranteed a race start, with the remaining seven relying on provisional spots based on owner points standings. Deegan and AM Racing entered the weekend 32nd in owner points which put them in a perilous position ahead of what was a tense qualifying session. After being drawn into qualifying Group B, Deegan knew the target lap time she had to achieve of a 2:16.241 which would guarantee her spot in the race regardless of the times set among her Group B competitors.

Hailie fought an ill-handling car during the course of her qualifying session, with her initial laps coming up just short of the benchmark time which was required to qualify purely on time. As a result, Deegan remained on track for the majority of the session and completed the most laps of any driver in qualifying. Attempting to build confidence and improve on her best lap, it was a tense wait as despite her best efforts, Deegan was unable to improve.

Despite setting the 35th fastest time, her lap of 2:16.590 was enough to qualify with both Preston Pardus and Kaz Grala unable to set a top-33 lap time while sitting below Deegan in the owner points standings. With a long race ahead of Deegan and the AM Racing team, there would be opportunities to move forward and further work on the handling of the car.

In an attempt to further improve the car, Hailie and the AM Racing team elected to make unapproved adjustments between qualifying and the race which saw her start from the rear of the field. Taking the green flag in 36th position, it was an assured start for Deegan who avoided any initial incidents and moved up to 33rd by the conclusion of lap three.

This was, in part, due to drivers ahead receiving a drive-through penalty for cutting the course in the opening part of the lap, with these penalties proving a consistent feature of the race. In the second half of stage one, Hailie began to struggle with the handling of her car and ended the opening portion of the race in 29th, following pit stops for a number of teams ahead.

A good stop from the AM Racing crew saw Deegan begin stage two in 26th, before dropping six places on the initial restart. A further four positions were lost on lap 19, before Hailie settled into her rhythm and passed Jeremy Clements for 35th on lap 21. During stage two, crew chief Joe Williams was planning the best strategy for the crucial final stage which saw Deegan come to pit road before the conclusion of stage two, therefore remaining on-track under the caution period. Importantly remaining on the lead lap, Deegan finished stage two 36th but was set to gain a number of positions as the pit lane opened.

Restarting from 18th, Hailie began the final stage in her highest running position to date and looked to take advantage of this track position. However, this proved to be a challenge with a number of faster cars fighting their way forward on new tyres. As a result, Deegan fell to 30th at the conclusion of lap 36 before being engaged in a number of close battles.

Setting her quickest lap of the race on lap 37, she moved ahead of Chandler Smith before battling both RC Enerson and Patrick Gallagher for positions inside the top-30. Running her fastest times of the event, Hailie’s ultimate personal best time came on lap 42, before a caution on lap 43 set up a thrilling finish.

Taking advantage of this break to fit her final set of new tyres, Deegan was aiming to benefit and move forward. Restarting from 30th, Hailie moved up to 27th before an attempt of NASCAR Overtime was needed as the caution was displayed for an incident involving Ryan Ellis, Riley Herbst and Leland Honeyman Jr. As multiple drivers ahead pitted, Deegan was up to 21st at the final restart and did a nice job to negotiate the final two laps to finish in 25th.

Following two penalties for drivers ahead, Deegan was classified 23rd which was a good achievement considering the adversity she overcome in her first NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Circuit of the Americas.

Hailie maximised her finish in her first road course start of the season, successfully negotiating an action-packed final stage to finish in 23rd. Despite struggles with handling, Hailie avoided any penalties which proved valuable in collecting important points for the owner’s championship.

Gaining six spots in the driver’s standings, Deegan now sits 26th and will be looking to improve further as the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns next Saturday when the drivers tackle Richmond Raceway.



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