After meeting goals set in her first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race, Hailie Deegan is looking forward to her rookie campaign in the series in 2021.
Deegan came home 16th at Kansas Speedway to mark the highest finish by a female driver in her series debut. The weekend started with Deegan wrapping up the ARCA Menards Series season with a third-place finish in the standings along with Bounty Rookie of the Year honors.
"My goal was to really like it would be a good day for me to finish top 15 to 20," Deegan said. "That was my goal. If I could finish that I’ll be happy. And so I think that was really good that we accomplished all those goals. I was happy with myself. I was happy with my crew, my team, my crew chief, my spotter. Everyone just did an amazing job."
Along with turning laps in the truck for the first time, Deegan made green flag pit stops for the first time, which came when her truck was running low on fuel.
"I tried to make it not stall or run out of gas and so I tried to keep my roll speed up getting down pit road," Deegan said. "It was just crazy because there was so much going on.
"It was so thrilling and exciting and I’m really glad that happened so I can prepare for the future and know what to expect."
Deegan’s experience in the ARCA Series on intermediate tracks along with countless hours in the Ford simulator helped her prepare for her first NASCAR National Series race. Multiple mornings she would wake up at 5 a.m. to make the two-hour commute from her home to use the simulator.
"There were so many things that I need to do before the race that I did do so I was prepared," Deegan said. "I think that’s something that ARCA Series this year taught me. With the lack of practice we’ve gotten and everything being cut and shortened down is how to prepare away from the racetrack. How to prepare when you’re not inside that car."
The markers on the real track at Kansas came to Deegan after the team tightened the truck up after it fired off loose. Once Deegan was able to get in the top groove the markers on the track translated from what she was practicing in the simulator.
"As soon as I got up there I saw the hash marks on the track and everything, the little white lines on the top groove, and I was able to pick up the gas and get off the gas at same exact time as I did on the simulator," Deegan said.
Deegan will get more time in a truck next season as she takes the next step in her racing career by moving to the Camping World Truck Series with DGR-Crosley. She will kick off her sophomore year in the Ford Performance driver development program at Daytona where she finished second in the ARCA race to start 2020.
"We’ve been really doing a good job of improving and developing, but as soon as I did that truck race it made me realize this is where I need to be to develop to the fullest point and that’s something that I had a realization of," Deegan said. "I’m glad I did the truck race this year to realize that and so with that being said, I think next year it’s obviously going to be tough. We might not be able to set the world on fire first couple races or anything, but I think we just have to focus on developing and then take it from there the next year."