By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
MERIDIAN, Idaho — “God, this is the happiest day of my life,” said the trailblazing 17-year-old Hailie Deegan of Temecula, California, who made NASCAR history Saturday in the NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208 at Meridian Speedway, becoming the first female to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race.
Not only did she accomplish that feat, Deegan also becomes the first female to win a major NASCAR touring race since three-time Dash Series winner Shawna Robinson last won at Myrtle Beach in 1989.
The historic winning pass took place on the white flag when she pulled the bump and run, a move she had done to Bob Bruncati Racing’s Ryan Partridge and points leader Derek Thorn early in the race, to get by Bill McAnally Racing teammate Cole Rouse in Turn 1.
Though it was her only lap led of the night, but it was the most cherishing one of them all.
As she crossed the checkered flag in first, it was pandemonium all around the quarter-mile circuit as fans cheered wildly and a ecstatic father, Brian Deegan, ran all the way to winner’s circle and congratulated his daughter on her maiden K&N West victory in just her 12th career start.
Deegan told Motorsports Tribune that people doesn’t see the hard effort she has put into her racing career to get to where she’s at in NASCAR.
“Everyone doesn’t understand that they only see the tip of the iceberg,” Deegan said. “They don’t see everything that goes under. They don’t see me training my butt off, training at the gym, driving every single day in whatever car I can get in. Whether its a go-kart or my Polaris. Everything I can drive, I’m driving and it has showed.
“It showed how much experience I had. It showed that I knew how to make that pass and we made it happened. That’s exactly what I’m here for, and exactly what we’re gong to do for the rest of the season.”
Deegan showed consistency in her No. 19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota, including being fastest in final practice. Not only that, her win was the last of her eight goals she had set for 2018 and defined her day in Idaho as being patient.
“All I had to do was execute my goals. I knew we had the fastest car coming out of this weekend. We were P1 in practice. It’s my fault that we were fourth in qualifying but I knew we had the fastest car. I just had to be patient and we were there at the end.”
While it was a 1-2-3 finish for BMR, it was anything but smiles for the other two, including Rouse, who was also looking for that elusive first win in the series, and made a audacious statement that in the final two races at Roseville and Kern County respectively, he’ll win both.
“We were in the lead heading into Turn 1. There was a guy who spun out, she unlifted, drives into me, and gets me completely sideways,” Rouse on losing the lead via bump and run. “We were going to win that race if it was ran clean. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so I’m just going to go into the next two races and I’m not going to give any slack and we’re going to win both of those.”
It marked Rouse’s third runner-up finish of the season, paralleling his effort at Evergreen Speedway where he brought a backup car home in second after running into oil and rode the Turn 3 wall during first practice.
“There was oil on the track from another car. We pulled out the backup and qualified third with no laps on the track,” Rouse said. “Then we ran second for most of the night and got the lead, but I don’t really care about second honestly.”
During much of race, it wasn’t about Deegan and Rouse, but their other teammate, pole sitter Derek Kraus, who owned the competition and lapped up to fifth until the ninth and final caution came out on Lap 189 for a spin by Taylor Canfield.
Canfield’s car blocked the circuit and led to Kraus trying to avoid the battered No. 32 Alpha GRX/Strike Force Toyota, but he rode the Turn 3 wall instead and lost the lead after leading every lap to that point.
In the end, he ended up a heartbreaking third place as another possible win at Meridian was taken away under unfortunate circumstances.
Kraus expressed his frustration on the incident with Canfield after being involved in three out of the nine cautions in Saturday’s 208-lap feature.
“He spun out and it looked like he was going to roll on the track, so I went high and hit the brakes because I was committed to the high side,” Kraus said. “Had I rolled back on the bottom, I would’ve hit him. I don’t know, but I guess we’ll just move on to Roseville and Kern.”
Rounding out the top-five at Meridian were Thorn and Partridge.
For Thorn, he once again extended his points lead over his teammate and now Rouse by 32 points as he’s inching closer to his second series championship.
While Deegan moved up to fifth in the series standings and boosted her chances of winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, she showed no remorse when asked about putting a bumper on her competitors, notably Thorn.
“All those guys. Partridge, Thorn, I was running them like how they’ve run me. They were running my dirty last race, I’m going to run them just as hard. I’m not going to give (Thorn) any mercy, just because you’re the points leader. You run me hard, I’m going to run you hard just right back.
“We did that and I showed them that I’m not one to be messed with. I’m not one you’re going to able to take advantage of because you give me some, I’m going to give one right back.”
Trevor Huddleston finished in sixth, followed by Matt Levin, Jeff Jefferson, Kody Vanderwal and Pro Mazda driver Sting Ray Robb, who made his K&N West debut Saturday.
The K&N West tour hits their penultimate stop at All American Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon for the running of the Toyota/NAPA AutoCare 150, won by Michael Self last year.
NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – NAPA Auto Parts Idaho 208
September 29, 2018
- (4) Hailie Deegan, Toyota, 208.
- (3) Cole Rouse, Toyota, 208.
- (1) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 208.
- (5) Derek Thorn, Ford, 208.
- (2) Ryan Partridge, Ford, 208.
- (7) Trevor Huddleston, Ford, 207.
- (8) Matt Levin, Chevrolet, 207.
- (6) Jeff Jefferson, Ford, 207.
- (9) Kody Vanderwal, Ford, 207.
- (14) Sting Ray Robb, Chevrolet, 206.
- (11) Andrew Koens, Toyota, 205.
- (15) Taylor Canfield, Toyota, 182.
- (13) Travis Milburn, Chevrolet, Oil Line, 151.
- (12) Takuma Koga, Chevrolet, Drive Shaft, 47.
- (10) Kyle Tellstrom, Chevrolet, Engine, 14.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 48.916 mph
Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 3 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.329 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 43 laps.
Lead Changes: 2 among 3 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Kraus 1-189; C. Rouse 190-207; H. Deegan 208.
Standings: 1. D. Thorn, 505; 2. R. Partridge, 473; 3. C. Rouse, 473; 4. D. Kraus, 466; 5. H. Deegan, 438; 6. T. Huddleston, 430; 7. K. Vanderwal, 412; 8. M. Levin, 354; 9. T. Koga, 333; 10. T. Souza, 237.