Hailie Deegan is getting closer to the big prize: after her best qualifying in the Truck series, the Californian was again close to a top-three at her second appearance in the brand-new SRX Superstar Racing series.
Hailie Deegan enjoyed her best performance in NASCAR Trucks to date in qualifying at Knoxville and was close to yet another top-three in her second SRX Series appearance - in what was another busy weekend for the top US female athlete across of sports in regards to sponsorship value. Knoxville Raceway set the stage for this weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, with Hailie Deegan and Jennifer Jo Cobb returning to dirt racing after the previous event at Bristol Motor Speedway. Another woman joined the field at Knoxville: 35 year old Jessica Friesen, who had also tried to qualify for the Bristol race. Deegan was also a recent addition to the brand-new SRX Racing Series, where the Californian impressed the audience by taking second place in a field made of some of the best veteran drivers of American moto racing. The driver of the David Gilliland Racing #01 truck endured a challenging NASCAR Truck 2021 season so far, showing lots of progress week in and week out - and with strong performances that put her in the Top Ten positions at several races - but certainly luck hasn't been on her side and Deegan has so far recorded two P13 as her best results, reaching six times the top-20. The Knoxville event schedule saw practice sessions and qualifying going underway a few hours before the race, and Hailie Deegan proved her abilities on dirt with a P5 in practice - followed by her best Truck Series career qualifying result to date with fourth. Deegan had a difficult opening stage and saved her #01 F-150 with a great move, but dropped back as she battled for the top-20 positions. The race saw a dominant performance by Derek Kraus in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 - but chaos reigned afterwards, in an event that featured 14 cautions with incidents for many competitors. The McAnally Hilgemann Racing's young driver collided with Ben Rhodes in the final stage and was relegated to the back of the pack without realistic chances to recover after a perfect day up until that moment. Chandler Smith and Carson Hacevar took advantage of that situation and battled out for victory. But a fourth overtime finish was on their way. In the very chaotic action, Hailie Deegan's run would find several issues along her path in both Stage 2 and Stage 3. In the central section of the race, she made contact with another competitor and dropped from 16th to 22th, while she was around the Top 15. In the closing stage before the multiple overtimes, Deegan felt better with her truck but was involved in one of the many cautions, forcing the 19 year old to a spin and to a pit stop to change a flat tire. At the end of a crazy day, Austin Hill prevailed at the restart of the third overtime and moved ahead of Chandler - the latter on old tires that couldn't allow him to compete for the victory due to a long series of extra laps. Hill survived the fourth overtime's restart when another incident involved Zane Smith, Tyler Ankrum, Stewart Friesen and Johnny Sauter. Despite all the adversities, Hailie Deegan took her damaged truck across the line in one piece in 21th place, in a round where luck wasn't again on her side. Nevertheless, Deegan came home from Knoxville with a strong performance in qualifying - a career best so far at the wheel of a NASCAR truck. Jennifer Jo Cobb and Jessica Friesen were respectively P25 and P26. Jessica and Steward Friesen's Knoxville appearance was the first time since 1998 that a married couple competed in the same NASCAR event. A few hours later, Deegan headed to Slinger Super Speedway for a second entry in the Camping World SRX Series where she was again close to another podium finish: she concluded in fourth place behind the top 3 - composed by winner Marco Andretti, Luke Fenhaus and Tony Stewart. "It’s been so much fun. I love it. The SRX series is great racing" - commented Deegan. "Coming back to short-track racing reminds me of my K&N West days and I just enjoy it so much.", she added. "It brings back such good memories and some good racing. These cars are amazing, and I feel like there is a lot of great talent out here." The California-native will be part of the SRX Series season finale at Nashville next weekend, while we will have to wait until August 8th for her next race in NASCAR Trucks, when the Series will move to Watkins Glen.