By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
In her first return to a track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Hailie Deegan scored a career-best finish.
Deegan debuted at Kansas Speedway last fall. In the Clean Harbors 200, she finished 16th despite being swept up in a mid-race accident. When the David Gilliland Racing driver returned to the 1.5-mile track, she picked up where she left off.
The Temecula, Calif. native finished the second Stage of the Wise Power 200 in 10th. That gave Deegan’s No. 1 Toter / Engine Ice Ford F-150 momentum in the final Stage. She quietly kept her nose clean as she moved up the running order. As the race neared the end, Deegan had climbed to ninth once the pit stop cycle completed. A late race caution for Jennifer Jo Cobb set-up an overtime restart.
On the restart, Deegan, along with Ben Rhodes, Kyle Busch, and others, were swarmed by those that pitted for scuffed tires. Exiting turn two, Stewart Friesen spun, collecting Derek Kraus. Deegan narrowly avoided the incident. Under the ensuing caution, she too pitted for scuffed tires and adjustments. Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. pumped up the tire pressures in a bid to gain position on the restart.
“We’re going to pump these tires up for you. There’s only two trucks behind you on the lead lap,” Mike Hillman Jr. tells Deegan.
She’ll restart 13th in overtime. pic.twitter.com/MyUloNP6DU
— David Gilliland Racing (@dgr_racing) May 2, 2021
Despite the cooler tires, Deegan did not get the same jump on the second overtime restart that others did on the first. The jockeying for position boxed the 19-year-old in the outside lane. When the checkered flag waved, Deegan was 13th.
With the first two Stages going caution-free, Deegan climbed the running order. At the end of Stage 1, she was 15th on track. Without practice or qualifying, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie-of-the-Year contender relied on her previous experience at Kansas.
The 13th-place finish is the first top-15 finish in Deegan’s Truck Series career. It comes in just her eighth career start and marked her third career lead lap finish.
The top-15 also moved Deegan up from 18th in the points standings to 16th. She is 55-points behind the playoff cutoff, held by Johnny Sauter. Deegan is 201-points behind leader John Hunter Nemechek.
In the battle for Rookie-of-the-Year honors, Deegan is third, 36-points behind Chandler Smith, who leads the rookie standings. Carson Hocevar is second in the rookie standings, two-points behind Smith.
Now the David Gilliland Racing driver will look to carry that momentum into her first start at Darlington Raceway in the Liftkitsforless.com 200 on Friday May 7.
Feature Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo