By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Rising star Hailie Deegan has jumped ship from Toyota to Ford after signing a multi-year developmental contract Tuesday.
The 18-year-old will run the entire ARCA Menards Series campaign for DGR-Crosley, unveiling her brand new black No. 4 Monster Energy Fusion at the Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Tuesday’s announcement further bounds the racing family as Hailie’s father, Brian Deegan, drove a Ford in the Global Rallycross Championship, the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series and was a gold medalist in the Rallycross category at the X Games in 2011.
Deegan said she’s excited to have finally establishing a plan for 2020 and being a part of DGR-Crosley and Ford Performance after several weeks of speculations and constantly being asked about her future.
“I could not be more excited to join Ford Performance and DGR-Crosley,” Deegan said. “It became clear quickly that I align with the Ford Performance vision of driver development and our shared drive to win. It is also extra special to get to race with Ford, a family company, that already had ties to my family. Growing up watching my dad race a Ford, and now to be able to do the same thing is very cool.”
Deegan’s team home isn’t entirely brand new as she ran one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race for them at Bristol in August as part of the “Deegan Double” where she ran the Thursday race, where she finished on the lead lap in ninth, and the West race Evergreen Speedway two days later for Bill McAnally Racing, finishing seventh.
Co-owner David Gilliland said having Deegan on a full-time basis is a monumental moment for the organization as his team also left the Japanese manufacturer to join the Blue Oval brand last Wednesday.
“Today is a huge day for our organization,” Gilliland said. “It’s been really impressive to see what Hailie has been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. With her joining our Ford Performance driver development program at DGR-Crosley, the potential for success is endless. I’m super excited to get the 2020 season started.”
Deegan said being a part of the team that fits her vision and goals is valuable.
“It’s also important to me to be teamed up with a hardworking group such as DGR with like minded vision and goals,” Deegan said. “We are all committed to work as hard as it takes to finish on top. I look forward to the upcoming season and learning as much as possible to get me closer to accomplishing my goals of winning races.”
Not only that, Deegan commented in a teleconference that she sees DGR-Crosley as a really good team and understands David’s vision of not only running Fords, but also having a son that’s also trying to climb the stock car ranks.
“I really like how the program David has put together because he knows how it is trying to have a kid come up the ranks with Todd coming through,” Deegan said. “He knows how it is to be a racer and I think that’s definitely important to building a strong team. He has a lot of hard-working strong people over there that keep his program going.
“So, I think his alliance with Ford, plus all the resources they’re giving him, should heighten his program even more. I’m excited to be a part of it and it’s definitely going to be on top of its game and I’m excited to see what we can do together.”
Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports, said the goal is to develop her into a championship caliber competitor as well as gain more experience that could eventually lead to her competing in NASCAR’s national level someday.
“Hailie has shown in her brief time behind the wheel of a stock car that she’s got what it takes to be successful,” Rushbrook said. “Our goal is to put her on a path to realize our shared goal of winning championships and part of that is gaining experience on tracks such as road courses and superspeedways. We feel this year will serve as a good foundation for what lies ahead.”
Rob Johnston, Ford Performance Motorsports’ Global Marketing Manager, attest the same vision Rushbrook has for Deegan.
“We are very excited to have Hailie join the Ford Performance Team,” Johnston said. “She is a rising star in motorsports with a new and already large fan base that we are looking forward to engaging with through her talent and personality.”
Johnston added that Deegan’s patient rise will certainly become an ongoing story, especially if she continues to be successful.
“I think a lot of people are going to be joining her as fans because they’re going to want to follow the story and we’ll be able to link that to showcasing Ford products,” Johnston said. “Whether it be Mustang, maybe the new Bronco, and certainly our trucks. All of those things kind of fit into her personality and lifestyle on and off the track, through racing or her active lifestyle outdoors.”
In addition of running the 20-race national schedule, Deegan will be driving a Mustang GT4 for Multimatic Motorsports in select IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. She’ll be pairing up with Xfinity Series and fellow Ford Performance developmental driver Chase Briscoe.
The Temecula, California native will be a part of the IMSA Roar Before the 24 test session at Daytona on January 3, 2020 and will make her IMSA debut at “The World Center of Racing” January 24.
During the teleconference, Deegan said running the road courses will further help her become a versatile racer because she’s seen how NASCAR has continuing adding circuits that focuses on making multiple turns.
“I think if I can gain some experience in IMSA, hopefully better my driving skills and develop me a little better as an all-around driver,” Deegan said. “We’ve seen what it’s done to Chase and how good he’s done on the road courses too and how much of a better drive it made him. I’m looking forward to being a apart of IMSA and hopefully have a little bit of success there too.”
Rushbrook said having Deegan and Briscoe run in IMSA allows them to gain valuable experience in different types of cars and circuits.
“There’s a lot of reasons that we put our developmental drivers into the IMSA Mustang Fords. Obviously, part of it is just getting that driving experience in a different car, getting road course experience,” Rushbrook said.
“Another big reason for us doing this is for building the feeling of teamwork and family across our development drivers. We are family company and we approach racing the same way.
“To be able to have our development drivers bond together, even by sharing a car, hopefully winning a race together, doing well in a race together, is great at building their feeling of being a part of the Ford family that will hopefully stay with them up to the Cup Series.”
This past season, Deegan finished third in the K&N Pro Series West standings, scoring two wins via last-lap bump-and-runs at the dirt track in Las Vegas and Colorado. She also ran six ARCA races for Venturini Motorsports, scoring a career-best fifth in the rain-shortened race at Lucas Oil Raceway.
ARCA’s national touring season opener will commence February 8, 2020 at Daytona International Speedway.
As far as whether or not Deegan will compete in the Truck Series in 2020, the main focus is just ARCA and the selected IMSA races, which will be heavily loaded in the early portion of the season.
“We felt that was going to be best for my career and my development, getting on those bigger tracks,” Deegan said. “We’re not really focusing on a lot of the smaller tracks. It’d be nice to race a few ARCA East and West races if the opportunity arises, later in the year. Even a few Truck races, but as of now, we’re taking all our resources and put it in the ARCA Series because that’s what feels best.”