By Michael Eubanks
At age seventeen, most young men and women are preoccupied with high school, working their first jobs, learning to drive and preparing for college. But Hailie Deegan, the 17-year-old daughter of motocross and rallycross legend Brian Deegan spends her time racing stock cars full-time in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West Division and part-time in the East Division.
On Saturday night’s NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 at Meridian Speedway, Deegan Made history and national news. Starting fourth and running a competitive race all night, Deegan found herself running in second place behind Bill McAnally Racing teammate Cole Rouse. Making a bump-and-run move on Rouse on the last lap, Deegan was able to pass her teammate and pilot her #19 Toyota across the finish line first, and scored her first career victory, as well as the first victory for a female in the series.
“Oh my god” Deegan said after the race “this has to be the best day of my life right here. It doesn’t get any better than this. People don’t understand how many days, how many hours I’ve put into this. How much work I’ve done to get to this moment. It’s just amazing … this is the happiest day of my life. We did it.”
Not only is Deegan’s victory the first for a female in K&N Pro Series history, it is also the first victory for a driver in a NASCAR-sanctioned touring series in nearly 30 years. Shawna Robinson won three races in the now-defunct NASCAR Dash Series from 1988-89.
A member of the 2018 NASCAR Next class, Deegan’s win comes in only her 12th K&N Pro Series West start. Deegan won her first pole position in the series at the previous race of the season at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, where she would finish second. Deegan has finished in the top ten of all but two of the West Series races she has competed in this year and currently sits fifth in the points standings. Saturday night’s win also placed her in the lead of the Rookie of the Year standings and she is a strong candidate for the Most Popular Driver Award for the series.
With two races remaining on the schedule, Deegan has an opportunity to continue to race competitively and possibly even win another race. Whether of not Deegan attempts to race in ARCA or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2019 remains to be seen, though at only 17, she still has plenty of time to gain more experience at the regional level. As a talented and easily marketable driver, Deegan certainly will be presented with many offers to take her talents to a higher level over the next several years. NASCAR may have finally found the competitive female racer that the sanctioning body and its legion of fans have desired for many years.