NASCAR NEXT Driver Hailie Deegan Makes Transition to Asphalt
Hailie Deegan has carved out her own reputation in off road racing as the “Dirt Princess,” but now she’s making the transition to asphalt as she competes in late model events in North Carolina.
The 16-year-old from Temecula, California, who was named to the 2017 NASCAR NEXT class, recently began chasing pavement in various Super Late Model races. Teamed up with Bond Suss Racing, Deegan has already started having success – leading laps in a Fast Five Pro Late Model Series event at Southern National Motorsports Park in August.
“I raced a little bit of asphalt back in California, just a couple races in a slower Late Model car but these cars are pretty big and a lot faster,” Deegan told POPULAR SPEED. “I think I’m really good at setting fast lap times. I need a little more work in being around people. In off road racing, where I come from, it’s all about passing people within one second. Here, it’s like, you could be trying to pass someone for 10 laps.
“It’s just a different type of racing which I’m still trying to learn.”
Hailie Deegan is the daughter of the off-road racing icon and X-Games legend Brian Deegan. In her own off-road career, she has already had success, becoming the first woman to win a race in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. While she has shifted gears, literally and figuratively, and is focusing on her asphalt mostly, she still competes off-road.
“My dad and me, we came from off road racing which I currently still race in,” Deegan remarked. “I race in the Pro Lite Class which is an all age open from 15-years-old on. So I’m racing that and asphalt.”
It’s the success she has already had, along with the desire to take on a new discipline, that made Deegan want to transition to asphalt racing.
“I think, in off-road, I’ve been doing really well and I ventured out seeing what else I could do that would make me that much better,” Deegan explained. “Coming to asphalt racing, it’s a whole new game for me. It’s a whole new thing I’m learning and so, I think, coming to asphalt, it will teach me a lot more abilities.”
At Southern National Motorsports Park, a NASCAR-sanctioned 4/10-mile oval in Lucama, North Carolina, Deegan immediately took a liking to the track.
“It reminds me of a track that I raced at back in California called Kern County,” Deegan commented. “It’s just a smaller version of that with the banking and the straightaways. It’s a little smaller than Kern County, but I’ve raced there, and it’s pretty similar, and I’m catching on pretty quick.”
Now that the teenager from California is starting to find her groove in asphalt racing, she has decided to make her career in NASCAR. Deegan is a member of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class – a program initiated by NASCAR to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming racers competing in the developmental ranks.
“I’m looking more toward the pavement side because I think I can have a bigger, better career with that side,” Deegan elaborated. “I know off road will always be there. That’s where I started, and I love it, and I can always go back there.”
So far, though, things are going well as she’s already gotten media recognition Speed51.com, a short track media outlet owned and operated by Bob Dillner, recently said Deegan was the top female racing prospect in the nation in their annual Short Track Draft. Despite the pressure from that and her last name, it does not seem to faze the poised and confident racer.
“I think, yes that has put pressure on me,” Deegan remarked. “But, I think pressure is good. It makes me do better.”
Deegan is not the first driver to join the NASCAR ranks from the off-road racing world. Seven-time and defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion also started out in off-road before moving east and running ASA – logging his first laps in a late model at Southern National.
“I think I see all these other people coming into asphalt racing that came from dirt and they have these great abilities, being able to drive a loose car and being more aggressive,” Deegan stated. “So I think it’s definitely going to help me with my off road racing background, especially seeing that there’s been some competitive big names that have come from the same background.”
Along with racing in Super Late Models on the East Coast, Deegan, who is backed by Monster Energy and Toyota, recently tested in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car for Bill McAnally Racing in Irwindale, California.
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