Hailie Deegan ends regular season with P19 in Watkins Glen
A top 20 result after a comeback from the eventful opening laps – and a brief appearance in top ten mid-race – marked the conclusion of Hailie Deegan's regular season in her rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck campaign.
After a three-week break, NASCAR returned to the track last weekend, with the final round of the 2021 regular season for the third-tier Camping World Truck Series. At the United Rentals event at Watkins Glen, in fact California-native Hailie Deegan made her first appearance at the iconic road course track – which was also the home of the US Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980 and hosts NASCAR Cup events on a regular basis. The Truck series race, though, was brought back on the calendar in 2021 after a 2-decade hiatus. As has been often the case in 2021, Deegan – at her first full season in the series – had no practice sessions or qualifying prior to the green flag, with little experience of the 2.45 mile road course. During the course of the season, Hailie Deegan encountered several unfortunate events - often when battling for the top-10. At the previous race before the summer break, a multiple-car incident relegated her to the mid-pack after a strong qualifying, where she secured the fourth spot on the starting grid. Immediately after the Watkins Glen start, a big crash saw many trucks spinning on track and Deegan – who had taken the green flag from the 18th position – was able to avoid the accident. Nevertheless, that evasive action cost her positions and she dropped to 30th, requiring the David Gilliland Racing driver to plan her comeback.
In the first part of Stage 1, Deegan struggled with her car balance, but after a pit stop she looked more confident and was able to overtake several cars to bring her #1 Ford back inside the Top 15 at the end of the first out of the third stages. Starting from pole, Austin Hill battled with a competitive Todd Gilliland – who won Stage 1 after an interesting duel. Deegan continued hef strong comeback and provisionally made it in the top ten during the second stage, but she would drop again in the midfield group when she was forced to complete an extra pit stop after being forced onto the grass. Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith and Sam Mayer were the main protagonists of Stage 2 – before the return by Austin Hill, who had surrendered the opening stage victory to Gilliland, but would secure the point for the second stage victory.
Stage 3 was marked by a couple of cautions that halted Deegan's comeback. She ran inside the top 20, before the event had to be called with 11 laps to go for the deteriorating weather conditions and the approaching thunderstorms over Watkins Glen. The early chequered flag, combined with a superb run throughout the event, gave Austin Hill the victory of the final round before the Playoffs, which will start in two week's time at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Once again, Hailie Deegan's race was hampered by some misfortune, which cost the 20-year old a strong result after a good run through the field after the hectic first lap. She was classified in P19. The double 13th place finishes at Kansas City and Charlotte have been the best results so far for Deegan, who closes her regular season in P17 in the standings and will thus not advance to the Top-10 Playoff. Nevertheless, her rookie season has been filled with positive takes so far, as the Temecula-native is considering a move to NASCAR Xfinity in 2022. The Camping World Truck Series will now contest three more races (Round of 10), at the end of which two drivers will be eliminated. After three further races, four drivers will remain in contention for the title.
Hailie Deegan will return to the track on August 20th, for the Toyota 200 presented by CK power at World Wide Technology Raceway.