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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Late race incident ends promising run for Hailie Deegan at Phoenix

“We were just in a mode of trying to make it to the end of the race and just were at the wrong place at the wrong time" - Despite struggling with the balance of the car, Hailie Deegan was beginning to make progress before being caught up in an incident on lap 143 which led to an early retirement at Phoenix.

Hailie Deegan
Photo credits: Daylon Barr Photography

Hailie Deegan was on course for a strong finish at Phoenix until a final stage incident led to an unfortunate retirement from crash damage. Looking to build upon the momentum gained from the previous race at Las Vegas, the AM Racing driver had shown excellent single lap pace after qualifying inside the top-20.

Despite struggling with the balance of the car during the first half of the race, Deegan was beginning to make progress before being caught up in an incident on lap 143 which led to an early retirement.

Confidence was high for Hailie as she arrived at Phoenix following an excellent top-15 result at Las Vegas. This finish was achieved wholly on merit with little attrition, combined with superb progress throughout the race. Phoenix was also a track at which Deegan had competed at on four previous occasions during her stock car racing career. Driving for Bill McAnally Racing in 2019, she finished fourth in the K&N Pro Series West race, before scoring a top-10 in the ARCA Menards Series the following year. In her three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at the track, her best result came just four months ago in November where she finished 15th.

Hailie’s first on-track action at Phoenix in the NASCAR Xfinity Series began with a twenty-minute practice session on Saturday morning. Completing 32 laps, the second most of any driver, Deegan’s fastest time of 28.324 placed her 21st.

The AM Racing driver was targeting improvements in one-lap qualifying which followed shortly after. Improving on her best lap from practice by just short of fourth tenths of a second, Deegan qualified 19th, less than two tenths of a second away from a top-10 starting position.

Hailie made a good start to the race and held her position within the top-20 as the opening laps were completed. A number of cars had qualified out of position and as these drivers made their way through, including the JR Motorsports driver of Sam Mayer, Deegan fell to 26th by the conclusion of lap four. The following lap brought the first caution period of the race following an incident between JD Motorsports driver Dawson Cram and Kaulig Racing’s Josh Williams.

The AM Racing crew decided to remain on the racetrack, with Deegan restarting in 25th. The remainder of stage one saw Hailie fighting an ill-handling race car as she was unable to make progress, remaining in 25th as the opening stage was completed. Crucially however, Deegan had remained on the lead lap and this would allow her to move forward in stage two once changes had been made to the car.

Following a nice stop from AM Racing team, Hailie gained one position in the pit cycle to begin stage two in 24th. With just 37 laps before the final stage break, Deegan was targeting to remain on the lead lap and set herself up for a strong finish to the race. After a close battle with RSS Racing competitor Kyle Sieg, Deegan remained in 24th before an issue for Sam Hunt Racing driver Corey Heim moved Hailie up to 23rd on lap 74. From there, she held her position well as the second stage reached its conclusion and took the green/checkered flag in 23rd.

Another fast pit stop enabled Deegan to restart inside the top-20 and with urgency among the midfield runners intensifying, she was involved in a number of close battles. After losing out to a recovering Ryan Sieg on lap 107, Hailie then set about defending her 22nd position from Alpha Prime Racing driver Ryan Ellis. A spirited defence from Deegan was broken on lap 125, with the AM Racing driver then exchanging positions with series veteran Jeremy Clements shortly after.

Following the fourth caution of the day on 136, Deegan restarted 22nd and had begun moving forward before an incident involving drivers in the leading group triggered a chain reaction where the track quickly became blocked with spun cars. Hailie had done a great job to navigate her way through the incident, before receiving contact from Ellis which saw her spin and impact another car. Unfortunately, the damage was substantial enough to end her day early, with Deegan credited with a 33rd place finish.

“We struggled", Deegan commented. "We were struggling trying to get our No. 15 AirBox Ford Mustang to turn better. We were making a little progress on it, but we were struggling with that."

“We were just in a mode of trying to make it to the end of the race and just were at the wrong place at the wrong time", Hailie continued. “You have highs and lows. Vegas was good for us, and we made good progress there; Phoenix not so much, so it is on to the next one.”

Despite a challenging weekend at Phoenix, Hailie gained valuable experience during her first time at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. This knowledge will be useful with drivers returning to the one-mile circuit for the final race of the season in November. Deegan’s attention will now turn to the first road course event of the year at Circuit of the Americas on Saturday 23rd March.

The AM Racing driver will be aiming to use her road racing expertise to achieve a season’s best result with a bumper entry list expected, heightening the importance of qualifying with Deegan likely needing to qualify on speed.



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