From Dirt to Daytona: Hailie Deegan’s Motorsports Story

When you think of motorsports, what’s the first last name you think of? For NASCAR fans, it may be Petty or Earnhardt. For Formula 1 fans it may be Schumacher, Senna, or Prost. For off-road fans, often they think of the name Deegan. A family surrounded by motorsport history in off-road and motocross racing, it is no surprise that the family has children looking to keep the Deegan name alive in motorsports. One of them is taking a different approach, however, and paving her own path in the world of NASCAR – 20-year-old Hailie Deegan.

Brian Deegan, father of Hailie and co-founder of Metal Mulisha, was finishing a 125cc motocross race at the LA Coliseum in 1997. As he came across the finish line to take the win, he let his bike fly into the air without him on it – a trick called “ghost riding.” This unofficially became the start of Freestyle Motocross and kickstarted the attitude of Metal Mulisha, a riding group and clothing brand. After that night, Brian stated to Eric Johnson at XGames.com, “I think [at that] moment I was just really rebelling against everything and wanted to do something different. That night in the Coliseum really launched the attitude and the Mulisha.” From then, Brian would continue to set the world on fire with Freestyle Motocross, amassing a total of eight X-Games medals (including gold in MotoX Best Trick at the 2003 Los Angeles games) and becoming one of the faces of FMX, next to Pastrana.

Hailie came along in the summer of 2001, the first child of three for Brian and his wife Marissa. While all three children compete in motorsports events, Hailie is the only one on four wheels – middle child Haiden recently signed to Team Star Yamaha as an amateur/pro rider, and youngest child Hudson competes in youth motocross events. Brian was no stranger to four wheeled racing, however. Brian competed often in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and Global Rallycross, mostly after a Freestyle Motocross accident almost took his life. With one gold, two silver, and a bronze medal in X-Games Rallycross competitions, it’s easy to see how racing on four wheels got passed down to Hailie.

Hailie with her trophy kart, age 10

Hailie began competing in short course off-road racing at around the age of eight, after she received a trophy kart for her eighth birthday. It wasn’t long before she started finishing at the top step of the podium as she won her first race in 2009 in the SXS Stadium Series’ trophy kart class. After a transition into the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, she would become the first-ever female driver to win a championship in their Junior 2 Karts class of racing in 2013. The winning ways continued for the young superstar as she became the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series’ Modified Kart Regional Champion in 2015, then becoming the Modified Kart National Champion the following year. She would continue with off road racing full-time in the Pro Lite division of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.

Hailie competing in her Pro Lite off-road truck

While she was still racing off-road, Hailie began to explore the world of asphalt racing. In 2016, she began to drive legends cars for popular regional level NASCAR team Rev Racing. The following year of 2017 would see Hailie’s first career start in the CARS Super Late Model Tour series at Tri-County Motor Speedway and Hickory Motor Speedway. Beginning the journey into NASCAR, she became a member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2016, and the following year in 2017 became the only female and youngest member of the NASCAR Next class for that year. The announcement came in early 2018 that Deegan would begin running in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Menards Series West) for Bill McAnally Racing, one of the legendary teams of the regional racing series. She would also race a limited schedule in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (now ARCA Menards Series East) in that same year.

Solid finishes would follow Deegan from her off-road days, amassing a handful of top-ten and top-five finishes in her opening year. She would become the first woman to earn a pole position in either of the K&N divisions at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading thirteen laps and finishing second. On September 29th of 2018, she would become the first woman to win a race in the K&N divisions of NASCAR, taking the checkered flag at Meridian Speedway in Idaho. Leading only one lap, she passed her teammate Cole Rouse on the final lap of the race to earn the win. Deegan would be the second woman ever to earn a win in a NASCAR touring series, the first since Shawna Robinson in the former NASCAR Dash Series. 2019 would hold much of the same for Deegan, continuing K&N competition and beginning her journey in the ARCA Menards Series with Venturini Motorsports, running a limited schedule for that year.

Hailie in her K&N Pro Series fire suit

Deegan announced the move from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s towards the end of 2019, and signed a full-time ARCA Menards Series contract with DGR-Crosley, the team co-owned by former NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland.  She would run a full schedule in that year, but displayed frustration with the series in the fall – feeling that the racing was “boring” with the field being so spread out and live pit stops being axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She would get her ticket out of the ARCA ranks in October of that year, with her moving up to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (then the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series) driving full time for DGR-Crosley in the number 1 Ford F-150. Ten days before the announcement, she ran her first-career Truck Series race at Kansas in the number 17 for DGR-Crosley. Amassing a 16th place finish, she earned the best result in Truck history for a woman in a series debut race.

With a lot of hope for 2021, she began her first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With former Truck Series champion crew chief Mike Hillman Jr and veteran spotter TJ Majors on the radio, she had a lot to overcome in her first season of competition. The racing would prove difficult and a massive leap from ARCA competition. She would earn one top-ten at Gateway and walk away with an average finish of 21st in her inaugural season. She has re-signed with DGR-Crosley for 2022 and will be competing in another full-time season for the team, looking for success in the number 1 Ford F-150.

Hailie’s number 1 Ford F-150 at Daytona

With a strong social media presence, Hailie Deegan is also ushering in a lot of new people into the world of NASCAR and directly interacting with her fans and showing them through video how tough it really is to be successful in any level of NASCAR racing. Through these videos, Hailie has expressed frustration with the season and her finishes – wanting to finish higher and be more successful in the series. With another full-time season ahead of her and a rumored handful of NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, there is nothing but time ahead of young Hailie Deegan. With a sophomore season approaching fast for the Truck Series, Deegan looks to improve and eyes are on her to see how much she improves in 2022.

Featured photo by Jared C. Tilton

Published by Joshua Lee

iRacing Play-by-Play Commentator for Podium eSports, Apex Racing TV, Racecraft TV, Racespot TV, STN Racing, and Global SimRacing Channel.

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