By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Some folks will say it’s a “lost year,” others perhaps thinking “she’s wasting her time in ARCA.” Nevertheless, Hailie Deegan has had a quite the roller coaster rookie campaign in the ARCA Menards Series.
Following leading a race-high 85 laps at Lebanon I-44 Speedway last Saturday, Deegan spoke with the press Wednesday where she voiced her opinions about such discrepancies being thrown out there.
Especially, those saying she should be competing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series like former West stars Derek Kraus and Todd Gilliland have done instead of floundering around in ARCA.
The 19-year-old Temecula, California racer said at the end of the day, ARCA is meant to be a series for driver development. Something the ferocious 19-year-old values as its been publicized she doesn’t want to rush her stock car racing career and fall flat on her face like many rising stars in auto racing.
“It isn’t the Cup series. It is a stepping stone for drivers to move up to higher levels. I think people get so judgmental on it and there are some moments where people make mistakes and it is not Cup racing. People have to understand that,” said Deegan, driver of the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford Fusion for DGR-Crosley.
“Also, to a certain extent, we were supposed to be getting more out of the ARCA Series than we are. We were supposed to get pit stops. That is something I need to practice before I go to trucks. We were supposed to get practice, qualifying and we usually get a day before practice at the big tracks. All of that is getting cut.
“We maybe get five laps of practice at some of the bigger tracks like Michigan. All of a sudden you go right into the race and green flag racing and it is a lot different. It has definitely been a lot more difficult and harder on my career.”
Although she’s currently third in the ARCA standings, it hasn’t been quite electrifying as smaller fields and fewer race contending cars can deceive season stats. In fact, Lebanon was the first race Deegan has led in her national career.
Aside from a runner-up effort at Daytona and a third at Lucas Oil Raceway, she also hasn’t been anywhere near the front of the field as head honchos Michael Self, Bret Holmes, Ty Gibbs and Sam Mayer have been at a different zip code all season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a major role as the lack of track time and pit stops have added tremendous challenges to the three-time West winner.
Despite opportunities falling on the weight side, she doesn’t believe it’s been a “lost year.”
“I think it will just make the development process harder,” said the DGR-Crosley driver. “I think it will be a little harder on me and I am going to have to really buckle down and focus on it even more than I already am and really give it 110% effort every opportunity I get to because I am lacking everything I was planning.
“I am not lacking, but I am not getting as much as I was planning on. I am going to have to take advantage of every single opportunity I get and learn the most but I don’t think it will put us back a year, no.”
Due to this, any talks like running a partial Truck Series schedule hasn’t fully fleshed out due to money being tight and racing expense being high.
“We are still figuring it out,” Deegan on running NASCAR. “At the beginning of the year I thought we would be in the clear to do a few truck races money wise and budget wise for my racing but what actually happened was with the whole COVID deal and everything, everyone’s budgets that they were going to give extra on top of what I had was cut.
“We had to start from square one again. We are still trying to figure everything out. Obviously I would love to do truck races this year if it works out. I think it will help me with my plan next year too.”
Not only Deegan is still trying to figure out those plans, the same applies with her 2021 plans where she really hopes things turn around where she doesn’t lose valuable ground.
“It is kind of difficult when you race off sponsorships because you almost have to finish out your year before you get in talks of the next year. With everything happening this year, there is no set plan of what is happening for next year,” Deegan on her post-2020 plans. “Are we going to have practice back? Are we going to have qualifying back? Sponsors want to know how much they are getting out of it. I think that is something that is still very unknown and very hard to talk about sponsor deals at the moment.”
While the future is up in the air, Deegan’s focus is building her momentum this Saturday at Toledo Speedway. In three starts at the half-mile Ohio circuit, a sixth last month is her best outing.