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Ford Performance Claims Hailie Deegan in 2020 DGR-Crosley Deal

On December 11, DGR-Crosley announced it would be making the jump from fielding Toyotas to Fords in 2020 and that in just six days, they would be introducing a new development driver. This manufacturer swap spelled early speculations for Hailie Deegan, who was a free agent following the 2019 season and who already had ties to the newly branded Ford team in the past.

Fast forward six days and DGR-Crosley revealed that the 18-year old driver will indeed be racing for their organization full-time in the newly modeled ARCA Menards Series as Ford Performance’s development driver. This is a massive win for both Deegan and DGR-Crosley as the female racing prodigy has cemented herself as arguably the sport’s most enticing up-and-coming talent.

This new deal comes just one month following Deegan’s breakout season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in which she captured 11 top-10s, eight top-five’s and her first multi-win season (2) – all while finishing third in the series’ standings.

MVPindex also revealed that last year, the female development driver ranked third amongst all NASCAR drivers in social media engagements and impressions, only bested by 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. In an all important digital age where social media is prevalent in growing the sport’s popularity, it’s highly encouraging that Deegan is the only driver inside of the top-10 who doesn’t compete in the Cup Series.

Being a highly touted talent skyrocketing through NASCAR’s lower divisions and someone who is essential for the sport’s growth, the Ford Performance development driver deal makes sense for both sides. By getting Ford’s support, Deegan is getting assurance from the manufacturer that she will receive all the tools and backing to ensure a long-standing career in NASCAR.

The deal with DGR-Crosley also opens new potential avenues for the 18-year old driver and her racing career. The David Gilliland run race team fields drivers in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. It would not be out of the ordinary to see Deegan potentially run some truck races in the later stages of 2020, given on-track success in the ARCA Series.

The California-product will race the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford Fusion in all 20 races run in the ARCA Menards Series, but she won’t be going in blindly to the developmental driver series. In 2019, Deegan amassed four top-10’s and one top-five finish in the mere six races she ran for Venturini Motorsports.

It should also be noted that the latest success story of Ford Performance’s developmental driver program was Cole Custer. Custer masterfully raced his way to a ride in the newly named NASCAR Cup Series in 2020 after a stellar NASCAR Xfinity Series season. The California-native will take over driving duties for the No. 41 at Stewart-Haas Racing and with stars like Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola nearing the back-end of their careers, Deegan could make a potential great fit down the road.

The deal between the Ford Motor Company, DGR-Crosley and Deegan should spell a future of longevity and success for all parties involved. This is a much-needed statement from both Ford and NASCAR that Deegan will be one of the core-center pieces in shaping the growth of sport’s future. One thing is certain, all eyes will remain to be on the 18-year old talent as she continues her meteoric rise through NASCAR’s lower ranks.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

 

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Home Tracks

Jagger Jones Returns Home for First Race at ISM Raceway

AVONDALE, Arizona — The Arizona Lottery 100 at ISM Raceway was the final stop on the circuit for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, but was also the first race in a NASCAR sanctioned series at his hometown facility for Jagger Jones.

“This is my first time racing here at ISM Raceway and it’s obviously so different from watching in the stands,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED.  “Growing up watching the races here and now being able to race here is super cool. I’m looking forward to it, it’s cool to be the local kid for once because usually I’m traveling all around the west coast – all around the country really for races, so it’s cool to race here in my hometown.”

The Scottsdale, Arizona-Native entered the series finale ranked second in the standings – and this was as high as he could soar, being that all points leader Derek Kraus had to do at the 1.5-mile speedway was start the race to lock up the 2019 Championship.

Jones would go on to put down a sixth-best qualifying lap, putting him on the outside of Drew Dollar to start the 100 Lap event.

“We have a really competitive field here this weekend,” the 17-year old admitted. “We’ve struggled a little bit on the bigger tracks for our series, so I think if we can get up inside the top-five it’ll be a good say for us.”

When the green flag waved atop the unique LED-cactus flag stand, Sam Mayer raced from the lead and did not surrender that position until 12 laps remaining – when race-winner Ty Gibbs passed him after the 16-year old made contact with Ty Majeski on a three-wide restart.

A good majority of the race was a product of single-file long-run racing in which Jones saw himself mainly battling with fan-favorite, Hailie Deegan for the eighth-spot.  After a healthy-dose of cautions in the final 30 laps of the race, Jones didn’t quite salvage that top-five he’d hoped to attain in pre-race, finishing sixth.

The driver of the No. 6 was able to hold on to the second-ranked position in the standings. He finished the year with eight top-fives, 11 top-10s, one pole award, 248 laps led and his first win – which came at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.

It’s safe to say that after what can be deemed an incredibly impressive season that Jones will be one of the young talents who will be in NASCAR for years to come.

“We’re setting up things for next season,” said the Arizona-native. “They’re changing the whole series in 2020, so we’re just trying to put everything together for that. Next year I want to run a lot of races and win as many as I can – those are my main goals for he offseason.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

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Home Tracks

Female Diversity on the Rise in NASCAR

It’s been two years since Danica Patrick completed her final full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and you’ll have to look back to the 2018 Daytona 500 to find the last time a female driver competed in the premiere series. In an effort to diversify the sport, we’ve seen drivers such as Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace come through NASCAR Home Tracks, bringing along a new legion of race fans.

This is a welcoming feeling as over the last three years, NASCAR has seen many of its superstars depart from racing (namely Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and has struggled with viewership numbers.

Though as new drivers continue to impress and find their identities, the argument can be made that NASCAR could be taking a turn in the right direction. According to ESPN, the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway saw a 16% increase in viewership and ratings from last season. Concluding Fox Sports coverage of the Cup Series, ESPN also reported a 2% increase from last year.

While the progression has been minimal, these should be great signs of NASCAR’s future to come. Increasing help is on the way as two of the sport’s most promising female athletes are speeding their way through the lower series in hopes of bringing a fresh look and new talent to the Cup Series – Hailie Deegan and Brittney Zamora.

Most racing fans in general have heard of Hailie Deegan. Deegan broke on to the NASCAR racing scene in 2018, running races in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. She has made quite the name for herself with an outgoing and bubbly personality that radiates through the garage area– but don’t let this fool you. The second generation racer is the furthest thing from a push over.

In what could be considered Deegan’s current career defining moment, she turned heads this season when she spun her Bill McAnally Racing teammate, Derek Kraus, for the win on the final lap at Colorado National Speedway (see the video below). This created tons of exposure for the 17-year old driver and now the sky seems the limit for Deegan’s career in NASCAR.

In addition to having a likable and gritty attitude that racing fans gravitate to, Deegan’s stats speak for themselves. In just 31 races run between the K&N Pro Series West and East, Deegan has three wins, 10 top-fives, 19 top-10s and four poles. This may be just a small sample of what’s to come from Deegan, but one thing is for certain – she has a bright career ahead of her in NASCAR.

To find the next female athlete making her way through NASCAR’s ranks you don’t need to go far; keep your eyes on Bill McAnally Racing with Brittney Zamora.

Zamora has not quite made the waves and headlines like her BMR counterpart, but she is silently having herself quite the rookie season in both K&N Pro Series divisions. Zamora has driven her way to four top-fives, six top-10s and one pole in just 10 races in her young NASCAR career.

The 20-year old driver from Kennewick, Washington has seen immense success racing super late models in her home state as well as Oregon. Zamora was the first female athlete to ever win a race in the Northwest Super Late Model Series and won back-to-back championships in the series from 2017-2018. She was even awarded Washington State Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series in 2018.

Most recently, Zamora found victory lane at South Sound Speedway this past weekend, racing Super Late Models in the Twin Mains 50’s.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has yet to see a female winner grace victory lane in the sport’s 71 years of competition. There’s no telling when or who will be the first female athlete to accomplish this monumental feat, but Deegan and Zamora should be seen as favorites to capture this historical achievement in NASCAR’s near future.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

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Trucks

Where does NASCAR draw the line with hard racing?

Over the last two weeks, there has been no shortage in drama between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. In both the NAPA Auto Parts 150 and the M&M’s 200, viewers were treated to a wide range of hard racing and it’s end results, which begs the question– where does NASCAR draw the line? 

Hard racing is by no stretch a bad thing for the sport. It provides viewers with excitement and has the ability to boost ratings for NASCAR . Some of the sport’s brightest stars have even made a name for themselves with aggressive racing styles. While this type of competition, is generally a positive thing for the sport, drivers will understandable get upset, and those reactions can lead to boundaries being crossed. 

During the closing laps at Colorado National Speedway on June 9, Bill McAnally Racing teammates Hailie Deegan and Derek Kraus made headlines after Deegan spun Kraus entering Turn 4, coming to the white flag.

Was the move Deegan made on Kraus warranted? It depends how you look at what happened prior to the final contact made.

Kraus, who had been battling adversity since Lap 50 with a broken sway-bar, managed to keep himself in contention for the win in the NAPA Auto Parts 150, restarting third and directly behind Deegan. When the green flag waved on the final restart, the past series champion opted to make the most of his opportunity and took Deegan and Jagger Jones three-wide entering Turn 1, ultimately getting into the left rear of Deegan’s No. 19 Toyota Camry. Deegan, justifiably upset with the move made by her teammate, spun Kraus and his No. 16 Toyota Camry entering Turn 4 to lock down her second win of the 2019 season.

“I think it’s just short track racing,” Kraus told POPULAR SPEED. “She (Deegan) drove it pretty deep on the last restart and drifted up the hill. I saw a hole and I took it of course — like any driver would. I got into her a little bit and coming to the white flag I got loose, then she got into me and everyone saw the end results.” 

Kraus was able to salvage an eighth-place finish and maintain his NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points lead after the move made by Deegan. Following the madness at Colorado, Deegan and Kraus were treated to a team meeting the smooth things over and clear the air.

“Everything went alright in the meeting and we’re back on good terms,” Kraus said. “I don’t have any hard feelings, we’ve both moved on and we’re both ready for a clean race at Sonoma.”

The events which took place in Colorado are an example of hard racing done right. Although unfortunate and controversial as this occurred between teammates, this brought tons of exposure to not only NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West, but the young up and coming drivers of Deegan and Kraus. In a time where it can argued that NASCAR’s upper divisions are lacking personality, the pair offered fans a possible glimpse into the future.

Exactly one week following the incident between Deegan and Kraus, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series had it’s own share of conflict and drama in the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway.

Early in the final stage, Johnny Sauter moved the No. 16 Toyota Tundra of Austin Hill out of the way to advance his position. Hill would go on to retaliate on Lap 136, sending Sauter’s No. 13 Ford F-150 into the outside wall. Sauter then took things one step further running down Hill under caution and sending both trucks hard into the wall through Turns 3 and 4.

Sauter would go on to be parked for the remainder of the race. NASCAR then suspended the past series champion for this weekend’s upcoming event at WWT Speedway.

“We were racing hard going into Turn 1,” Hill said. “He (Sauter) got into me a bit and I returned the favor. I don’t race like that, so if you’re going to race me like that, I’m not going to put up with it and I think you saw that.”

If Sauter and Hill ended their back and forth feuds in the closing laps following the caution on Lap 136, this incident would have been perfectly fine. The problem resided in Sauter’s retaliation to Hill under caution. When NASCAR officials throw out the yellow flag, drivers are expected to comply with the sanctioning body’s rules of speed and safety.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to give one another a bump during caution periods to voice their displeasure after the way they’ve been raced on the track. But what Sauter did was unforgivable and punishable, plain and simple. Sauter essentially used his truck as a weapon by intentionally wrecking Hill under caution at high speeds and put not only himself and Hill in danger, but his fellow competitors and safety officials as well.

The argument can be made that Hill was just as much at fault for sparking the initial dust up between the two drivers; after all, his product of hard racing and retaliation is what triggered Sauter. However, this was all done under the green flag and within reason.

NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller said that officials considered handing down penalties to Hill, but they ultimately just opted to punish Sauter for his actions.

“Him (Sauter) driving half a track with a smoking truck, winding through traffic to get to the No. 16 and running over him, then bouncing off the wall and running to into his door was pretty aggressive,” Miller said. “It was definitely not anything that could in any way, shape or form be defended as a racing incident.”

While suspended for this weekend, this will not effect Sauter’s opportunity to compete for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship with a  playoff waiver issued.

“In this case, we felt like his actions certainly warranted being sat down for an event, but it felt a little too harsh to take him straight out of the championship, so we think we landed on what we feel is fair and a deterrent,” Miller concluded.

While Sauter was the only driver suspended for the incident on Lap 137, Miller stated that NASCAR officials would be keeping Hill “under a microscope” throughout the remainder of the season.

Two of NASCAR’s lower series divisions rose to the occasion when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series had a scheduled off-week and all in all brought more exposure when the sport needed it most. There is a broad spectrum for what can be deemed acceptable and what is punishable when it comes to hard racing and fans got just that with the races at Colorado and Iowa.

While hard racing will almost always provide viewers with piqued interest and excitement, it should be done within reason and this should be recognized– not only by the fans– but from the sport’s athletes as well.

EMAIL COLE AT: colecusumano88@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

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News

Hailie Deegan Wins At Colorado In Dramatic Overtime Finish

DACONO, Colo. — Hailie Deegan wasn’t leaving Colorado without a trophy.

And she showed she meant it on Saturday night at Colorado National Speedway, bumping her Bill McAnally Racing teammate Derek Kraus out of the way in overtime to grab her second K&N Pro Series West victory of the season and third of her career.

“That was probably the scrappiest race I’ve ever ran,” she said. “In the end, we went out there, ran our hardest race. Everything I’ve been practicing, all the hard racing I’ve been running. Derek (Kraus) ran me hard right there (Turn 2), so I was going to run him hard back (Turn 4). And that’s racing. We were all going for the kill. I got the win and that’s all that matters.”

It was an accomplishment in and of itself that Kraus was even in contention for the win, as a broken sway-bar saw No. 16 fade at around Lap 50 from the lead to hanging on for dear life inside the top five.

But when given the opportunity, Kraus pounced.

The two-time K&N West winner in 2019 dove into Turn 1 on the restart and made contact with Deegan’s left-side, clearing her for the top spot, only to be left in a cloud of smoke one lap later.

Post-race, he took to social media to vent his frustrations.

Under the caution that set up the green/white/checkered finish, the No. 19 team debated whether to select the top or bottom lane for the final restart. After taking the top all evening long, they opted for the bottom to thwart any dive bomb attempt from Jagger Jones.

As it turned out, Kraus wound up being the one who dove inside the two and made it three-wide for the lead, and Jones wasn’t too pleased.

Team owner Bill McAnally experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a 30-second span, and attempted to encapsulate his feelings as he celebrated in Victory Lane.

“To have our cars up there slicing and dicing for the win is pretty special,” he said. “You knew the No. 6 (Jones) and No. 19 (Deegan) were going to get together, so I was worried about that already. And then when the No. 16 (Kraus) goes and gets three-wide, my heart hit the ground for a minute for sure. It’s bittersweet. Hailie wins the race, Derek gets spun around, they all drove hard. That’s what they’re here to do: win and develop. They’re doing a pretty good job of that.”

Starting from the pole for the first time in his K&N Pro Series career, LaSalle, Colorado native Kody Vanderwal escaped the last-lap carnage to finish second, his best result of the season. Todd Souza earned his second top five of the season and first top three finish since May of 2017, coming home third.

Brittney Zamora, who rebounded from spinning late, finished fourth with Matt Levin rounding out the top five. John Wood, Jones (spun while running third in overtime), Kraus, Trevor Huddleston and Takuma Koga completed the top 10.

Kraus maintains the championship points lead by 12 markers over Deegan leaving Dacono, while Jones, Huddleston and Zamora complete the top five in the standings.

The Colorado NAPA 150 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Thursday, June 13 at 6 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place on Saturday, June 22 at Sonoma Raceway.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100s Race 1 at South Boston

As the fans continue to preach for more short tracks on the NASCAR National touring schedules moving forward, the NASCAR Home Tracks divisions are continuing to showcase why this needs to happen.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series has proven to be a great division for young stars to showcase why they should compete against the stars in the national tours. As they’re pushing those envelopes, they are continuing to put together stellar finishes.

A late caution set-up a green-white-checkered finish to the WhosYourDriver.org Twin 100 Race 1 for the K&N Pro Series East at South Boston Speedway, and it impressed every fan watching the free stream on FansChoice.tv.

After giving up the lead to Sam Mayer over the course of the long run, Tanner Gray took full advantage of the restart, with a well-timed bump to the back of the No. 21 Chevrolet, followed by some rubbing well alongside on the tight track to take over the lead. He then held on through the final lap for the victory.

It’s always been stated that “racecars have bumpers for a reason,” as well as the classic stories of the “chrome horn.” Gray perfected the move in that moment as he got the position on Mayer, however he didn’t go over the limit by wrecking his competitor. 

Gray’s transition into stock cars has been interesting to watch thus far as Saturday’s event only marked his third career series in the start. He also does not have an asphalt oval background like many of his competitors, coming from the drag racing world into NASCAR. His quick ability to adapt to stock cars could prove critical moving forward.

If the caution does not fly, Mayer easily had the event in hand as he had been able to put a couple car lengths on Gray after taking the lead with a stronger car on the long run. Meyer has been equally as impressive as his counterpart, as evident by his dominating performance at Bristol Motor Speedway a couple weeks ago. 

Although everyone looked forward to seeing both of these young drivers go head-to-head once again in the second event starting up front, they also showed why they still have things to learn. Gray jumped the initial start, while Meyer made contact with the outside wall. With both being in the title fight, being able to gain ground when the race does go back green on Sunday could be a pivotal part of the season.

Certainly the youth and needing to learn showed through with other drivers, as well.

Drew Dollar gave up a top-five run in the first 100-lapper following contact with Chase Cabre as they both fought for the same piece of real estate.

Hailie Deegan may be applauded for her aggressive ability, but she showed the need to learn patience in driving over Colin Garrett in the first 18 laps of the second event before it was postponed to Sunday due to weather. Garrett showcased his frustration to his fellow competitor, resulting in shock from the fans in not being able to see a replay of the incident despite FansChoice.tv using that feature for other previous incidents. 

Garrett is not totally done for the weekend, as the rain will see him jump behind the wheel of Ruben Garcia‘s entry when the field goes back green as Garcia travels to Mexico to race in the NASCAR Mexico Series. With some time to think over what happened and running for a different team than his own, does revenge happen?

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: Zombie Auto 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway

If you did not know who Sam Mayer was before today’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event, then you certainly got your eyes wide open after watching him at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Driver’s Edge Development member was perfect across the Zombie Auto 150 weekend, as he paced both practices, before winning the pole and leading flag-to-flag en route to victory. Despite a couple different restarts, Mayer was unchallenged throughout the entire event as he easily pulled away from the field, slicing his way through the lap traffic while maintaining a healthy advantage over the field.

For the rest of the field, it was mostly a calm event though, too. The race started off with a bang in the form of a multi-car crash on the opening lap, but then saw the field string out through the course of each stage, with a couple small battles between drivers at times to keep you occupied.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend probably would be the luck endured by Hailie Deegan. She was fast in practice, but blew an engine late in the session which caused her to miss qualifying. She would start from the tail of the field, and patiently worked her way up to eighth by Lap 40.

However, contact during the second half of the event resulted in an unscheduled trip down pit road for overheating issues, and a finish outside of the top-10. While she’s been the star of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tour, she has yet to score a top-10 in the east division in eight starts.

The real talking point following the event wasn’t Mayer’s domination, though, but rather an interview fail.

Hannah Newhouse was pegged to speak with Riley Herbst following his crash for the at-track public address system, and FansChoice.tv’s broadcast. She made the comment in which she wasn’t sure what took Herbst out of the race, to which he replied, “The car is killed. Look at the right side of this thing.”

Although improper etiquette to not fully know what happened entering the interview with a comment like that, the discussion point did not come from there. Rather, she left her microphone open following the interview, calling Herbst a “douchebag.”

Although honesty is appreciated from the on-air talent, that certainly is not the best look to have. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: ENEOS NAPA Auto 150 at Irwindale Speedway

As fans continue begging for better racing in NASCAR’s top series, the manta has been “more short tracks,” with other Motorsports enthusiasts encouraging people to check out their local home track. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West is backing up this statement, opening the season with two of the best races of the season already.

Following an exciting trip to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt oval, fans played witness to a photo finish at Irwindale Speedway. Derek Kraus rarely makes mistakes and appeared to be ready to cruise to another victory, but he would get outside of the groove in turn three – opening the door for one of the most exciting battles in series history.

Both Trevor Huddleston and Tanner Gray would be able to clear Kraus in the process, with Huddleston beginning to stretch out an advantage. However, as the laps begin to count down, Gray was able to close the gap. Gray would get to Huddleton’s bumper with two to go, diving underneath in both ends as he tried to clear him. The battle would go all the way to the checkered flag. 

https://twitter.com/FansChoiceTV/status/1112191647675117568

Any race can have an exciting finish, but the ENEOS NAPA Auto 150 went beyond that.

Throughout the entire event, drivers were battling side-by-side for position, something electing for the preferred top groove, while others utilized the traction strip put down in the bottom lane. No matter when you tuned into the event, you could see drivers alongside each other, while working their way around the lap traffic.

The doors have been threatening to close on Irwindale Speedway, but this event proved alone why that should be allowed to happen.

Hailie Deegan was in the conversation for her second straight victory, until contact with Gray sent her around in turn one. She was able to make her way back through the field back to the top-five relatively quickly and got a chance to try her hand against the top-three on a restart, but ultimately used up her tires with her rebound. As a result, the early race top-three runner and pole sitter finished fifth.

FansChoice.tv will be carrying every single NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event this season live for free through their website, and that couldn’t come at a better time. With a wide variety of young talented drivers vying for the top spot each week, combined with the push for short track racing as mentioned above, expect fans to continue to tune in to get their fix.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Hailie Deegan Makes Last Lap Pass to Win on Las Vegas Dirt

LAS VEGAS — Hailie Deegan was not to be denied.

In what she called the biggest race of her season and her “rebound race,” second wasn’t going to be good enough.

Thanks to a last-lap pass, she didn’t have to settle for a runner-up finish. The 17-year-old from Temecula, California, captured her second career win and opened up the 2019 K&N Pro Series West season in Victory Lane in the Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

After having a pedal extension problem in her heat race forcing her to start ninth, she slowly and methodically worked her way into the top five by the lap 51 break. With some new tires and adjustments, she restarted third behind Derek Kraus and Jagger Jones.

Kraus was passed by Jones with 31 laps to go, and Deegan followed him through. But the No. 6 got smaller and smaller in her windshield, racing out to a four-second lead with 10 laps to go.

Just like she did before the midway break, she slowly reeled Jones in. As the white flag flew, Deegan was in striking distance of Jones. With the help of lapped traffic, the No. 19 dove to the inside, cleared Jones off Turn 2 and sped to the checkered flag.

“In the end we wouldn’t have caught him if it weren’t for the lapped cars,” she said. “And they got in his way. If I was him, I’d be mad. Really mad. But some peoples losses are other peoples wins and we ended up getting it done. I knew what we had to do to win. I knew it was going to come down to the last lap again and we made it happen.”

The NASCAR Next driver was not optimistic about her chances pre-race, saying her car was extremely ill-handling and the track wasn’t conducive to her style of dirt racing. But in the downtime between the heat and 100-lap main, she did some homework and things changed.

“Mostly just me working on my lines,” she said. “The line I was trying to run didn’t work for my car, so I had to move around and find which line worked. Once we found that, fixed the car, the car was great. The track was still icy, and we still weren’t good, but it was better than everyone else.”

The thrill of victory for some is dichotomous with the agony defeat for others. In his first career K&N Pro Series West start, Jones seemed to be on his way to a victory.

Unfortunately for the 16-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, and his Sunrise Ford Racing team, circumstances dictated otherwise.

“Hailie definitely had a little more speed at the end,” he said dejectedly. “But I think I would’ve held her off no problem, but lapped card cut me off, pushed me right into the tire on the last lap and Hailie was just able to get underneath me. Definitely wanted that win.”

Jones was’t upset with Deegan for the move. He was frustrated with Kenny Bumbera, who made life difficult for Jones on the final lap. When the door opened, Deegan kicked it down.

“Oh I think her move was fine,” Jones said of Deegan’s last lap maneuver. “I mean she didn’t really do anything too bad. It’s just the lapped car cut me off in front. It just pushed me up the track. Once that all happened she had a whole lane to herself. It was kind of given to her, which is unfortunate on the last lap. It just sucks sometimes.”

Joey Tanner came home third in his first career series race for Jefferson Pitts Racing. Kody Vanderwal and Todd Souza rounded out the top five.

After leading a race-high 60 laps, Derek Kraus finished sixth with Trevor Huddleston, Travis Milburn, polesitter Austin Reed (led the first eight laps) and Matt Levin completing the top 10.

The Star Nursery 100 is scheduled to be broadcast on Tuesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. on NBCSN.

The next K&N Pro Series West event will take place Saturday, March 30 at Irwindale Speedway.

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OBSERVATIONS: Star Nursery 100 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

“I knew it going to come down to the last lap once again….”

Hailie Deegan is currently regarded as one of the best young talents coming up in motorsports. She proved why on Thursday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track, and the fans were entertained in the process.

She showed speed throughout the Star Nursery 100 as she made moves forward, including a couple thrilling passes as she worked her way to the front. However, it appeared she’d fall short of winning for the second year in a row after moving into the runner-up position. After all, she had fallen almost five seconds behind Jagger Jones with 26 laps to go. Though nailing each lap, she continued to shave tenths of a second, bringing herself within two seconds with five laps to go.

Jones would find himself in lap traffic, and those cars would not move out of the way as the driver of the No. 6 would’ve hoped, as the bottom was the preferred line all night and where they tell lap cars to stay other places. Perhaps it was a bit of impatience, or maybe not having the knowledge of how to pinch himself underneath them, a he would get hung up on two occasions. The first would allow Deegan to close to within a couple car lengths, the second cost him the victory.

As Jones got hung up with Kenny Bumbera, a small space opened up between the tractor tire and them. Deegan would stick her nose in the hole, pushing Jones out a little (rubbing is racing, right?), and taking the lead. Although Jones tried to retaliate with the chrome horn going into turn three, it was not enough as Deegan kept it straight to the checkered flag.

To see Deegan win on a dirt track isn’t a surprise for any as she is known as a Dirt Princess, and perhaps that’s why she entered tonight with a chip on her shoulder. She felt she could have won the race last year, but ran out of laps in catching the leader. So for tonight, the attitude was simple as she said, “I wasn’t going to finish second again. I was going to win or wad it here.”

However, it marks her second win in the series following a victory last year at Meridan Speedway. It also marks her fifth straight top-seven finish on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West tour.

On the flip side, Jones may have been disappointed – and reasonably so as he figured he had it won, but he proved that he belongs in the series in just first start. The battle for the championship this year could be exciting as a pair of second generation racers, Deegan and Jones, go up against Derek Kraus for the title.

Kraus started off the night strong, leading the beginning stages, but his team failed to hit the set-up for the long haul. He fell back through the second half of the last run, crossing the finish line in sixth. 

Austin Reed also started off well as he won the pole via winning his heat race, but took a bit of a too aggressive approach to the event, going for a mid-race spin after making contact with Trevor Huddleston. He’d fight back for an ninth-place finish. 

Overall, the race was fun to watch. Although it started off slow with everybody running in a single-file line along the bottom, and it spread out in the end, there were some exciting moments. On top of Deegan’s last lap thriller, the final 15 laps before the competition caution at halfway saw some great racing back-and-forth between Kraus, Jones, Todd Souza, Deegan and Kody Vanderwal was worth watching. That said, it is hard to walk away from a dirt track and not be sad about missing someone sliding against the cushion. 

The season opener showed the talent these drivers are capable of, and gives us another reason to be thankful for FansChoice.tv for carrying the entire schedule free this year.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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