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ASHLEY ASKS….. Hailie Deegan

Last weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track, Hailie Deegan made NASCAR history by becoming the first female pole winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series en route to a runner-up finish. 

Recently, POPULAR SPEED spoke with the NASCAR Next member to get her thoughts on the weekend, and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on the Las Vegas dirt race?

HAILIE DEEGAN: It was crazy. Like, it wasn’t like expected. I expected it to be like practice on Friday. The track wasn’t that dusty, there was nice grip laid down – it was so dusty going into the first corner I almost ended up screwing myself. For the initial start, going from third to forth, I jammed it in neutral, and it ended up rounding the dogleg on the gear. So what ended up happening going around the corner every other lap, it would pop out of fourth gear. So it was really hard on the restarts to get it from third to fourth.

So from there, it made a problem for us to deal with. But once I got it into fourth gear, we ended up bungee cording it, which made it hard on the restarts because my arm was shaking so badly holding it in third. But we ended up making it work enough to pull off a second.

PS: With that said, after the adversity you faced, the runner-up is certainly amazing. But what do you feel it would’ve taken at the end to beat Sheldon Creed?

DEEGAN: I was missing two laps; that’s all I needed. That whole weekend, we had the best car. Sheldon struggled that weekend as he wasn’t in the best car, but we, that weekend, had hands down the best car. It showed because we were the best every time we came out. So I think the only thing I was missing was I got by the second-place guy on the restart, and reeled in Sheldon on the last lap, but just needed two more laps to put a little bumper on him to just get under him.

PS: Looking overall, what are your thoughts on the season to date?

DEEGAN: I think we’ve been doing pretty good. I mean, the season started off pretty good and we’ve been getting better each race. Before the Vegas race, we just had a couple bad races where we got in some wrecks, just stuff that we couldn’t help. There were just a couple things that took us out of top-three finishes that we could’ve had. I think we’ve gotten past that now, and now my goal for the rest of the year – I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not in the top-three or points championship, so right now we’re just going for wins.

Sean Gardner | Getty Images North America

PS: I was just going to ask. What would it mean for you to break through and get your first career win?

DEEGAN: It would mean everything to me, because I feel this year my goal was to get top-fives and we really didn’t think about it. I just wanted to run consistent top-five at the beginning of the year, and now we’re running top-three. So I think we’re moving a lot quicker than really planned, which is definitely good in my mind and everyone else’s, but now our goals have changed. It would be amazing if we could win a race.

PS: Your father Brian Deegan has had a lot of success in motorsports. How much extra pressure do you feel because of that, if any?

DEEGAN: Not even pressure – he helps me a lot, especially at the dirt race because we came from dirt racing. Together, we knew what to change. My car all weekend, we’d just been softening it up, just things that a lot of people would struggle and not change with not racing on dirt, so we had a good set-up from the get-go. I knew what we needed to get out of the car. I think that’s something that my dad taught me and helped me out with, and that’s why I was so successful this past weekend.

PS: So given your family’s dirt background, why the transition to asphalt and stock cars?

DEEGAN: I think in off-road racing, we were already at the top level; I was already running up front at the age of 15 in the Pro Lite class in off-road. There was not much more that I could go further in and if you ask anyone in America, the biggest racing is NASCAR. I think that I just wanted to challenge myself because it’s not what I grew up racing on. I grew up racing dirt, and not typical dirt circle track – but dirt short track in off-road trucks. It wasn’t the typical place that people come from.

I think that I knew it was going to be hard, but I wanted a challenge. I was only 16; I didn’t just want to stop there.

PS: That said, what was the biggest surprise for you in going from dirt to asphalt?

DEEGAN: I think the biggest thing that I had to work on myself was saving the tires, like not blowing them off early in the race. I think I’ve done a pretty good job at as I consider myself pretty patient at the beginning of races. I don’t go and make crazy moves, and roast the tires off of it. I think that’s one thing that I’m still learning is tire conservation. Other than that, I feel like we’ve made the transition very well. I feel it’d be harder going pavement to dirt, than it is from dirt to asphalt.

PS: What does it mean to you to be a part of the NASCAR Next program?

DEEGAN: The NASCAR Next program has done so many things for me off the track that has given me the capabilities to be able to drive on the track. I think they’ve definitely given me these type of situations where I can go and get myself recognized by everybody, and have sponsors calling us. It helps with sponsors when you’re on TV and doing radio shows.

I think the biggest thing in racing is the amount of sponsors you can get, and the more sponsors you have, the better your equipment is. So in the end, they help with the off-track side so you can do your best on the track.

PS: Speaking on the track, you’ve received a lot of praise from people within industry. What does it mean when you hear those comments from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers like Kevin Harvick?

Steve Dykes | Getty Images North America

DEEGAN: I’ve had a couple Cup drivers say stuff about me. Even Kyle Busch tweeted something after I got second back at Douglas County in Oregon. It’s just crazy seeing these Cup drivers comment. I think it’s really cool that they go down and look at the smaller series in NASCAR, the grassroots level where they came from, and I think it’s really cool having those drivers notice you because it helps in getting a fan base and sponsorship. It’s like, “Oh, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch talked about you. You must be a pretty good driver.”

PS: What would it mean for you one day to race right alongside those guys in the Cup Series?

DEEGAN: It’s what motivates me right now. Coming to all these NASCAR races and just watching, I know that’s what I wanted to do, and I’m 110% committed to do that ever since I started racing when I was eight years old. That’s what I’ve been training to do. All the work that I’ve been doing since I was a little was to be racing at the top level.

PS: As you’re making your way up the ranks, though, you’re inspiring other girls in go-karts and other levels of racing with your success. What does that mean to you?

DEEGAN: It’s pretty funny. Going back to when I raced off-road trucks, it was me and one of my friends that was a girl, and we were the only girls there. Now going back to where I started racing, there are 12 girls racing in the division that I got started in. It’s funny having these dads come up to me and say, “I got my daughter racing because of how good you did,” and all of these things. Off-road racing is just a good foundation, in general, and I see all of these girls doing it and it makes me happy.

I’ll help some of the girls. One of the girls got my mod kart, the one that I won the championship with in 2015. She ended up buying it and running the same body. I go out there and help there, we practice together sometimes. It’s just cool seeing all of these girls coming into racing.

PS: That said, if you could give one piece of advice for someone coming into racing, what would it be?

DEEGAN: I think just be aggressive. Don’t see yourself as different. Growing up as a girl in racing, everybody asked me what was it like to be a girl. I never saw myself as different. Everyone is like, “Oh you did good. You were the highest finishing girl,” and I’m like, “No, I want to be the highest finishing driver.” I don’t want to be categorized; I don’t just want to be the best girl, but the best driver.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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 News

NASCAR NEXT Driver Hailie Deegan Makes Transition to Asphalt

Hailie Deegan has carved out her own reputation in off road racing as the “Dirt Princess,” but now she’s making the transition to asphalt as she competes in late model events in North Carolina.

The 16-year-old from Temecula, California, who was named to the 2017 NASCAR NEXT class, recently began chasing pavement in various Super Late Model races. Teamed up with Bond Suss Racing, Deegan has already started having success – leading laps in a Fast Five Pro Late Model Series event at Southern National Motorsports Park in August.

“I raced a little bit of asphalt back in California, just a couple races in a slower Late Model car but these cars are pretty big and a lot faster,” Deegan told POPULAR SPEED. “I think I’m really good at setting fast lap times.  I need a little more work in being around people. In off road racing, where I come from, it’s all about passing people within one second. Here, it’s like, you could be trying to pass someone for 10 laps.

“It’s just a different type of racing which I’m still trying to learn.”

Hailie Deegan is the daughter of the off-road racing icon and X-Games legend Brian Deegan. In her own off-road career, she has already had success, becoming the first woman to win a race in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. While she has shifted gears, literally and figuratively, and is focusing on her asphalt mostly, she still competes off-road.

“My dad and me, we came from off road racing which I currently still race in,” Deegan remarked. “I race in the Pro Lite Class which is an all age open from 15-years-old on. So I’m racing that and asphalt.”

It’s the success she has already had, along with the desire to take on a new discipline, that made Deegan want to transition to asphalt racing.

“I think, in off-road, I’ve been doing really well and I ventured out seeing what else I could do that would make me that much better,” Deegan explained. “Coming to asphalt racing, it’s a whole new game for me. It’s a whole new thing I’m learning and so, I think, coming to asphalt, it will teach me a lot more abilities.”

At Southern National Motorsports Park, a NASCAR-sanctioned 4/10-mile oval in Lucama, North Carolina, Deegan immediately took a liking to the track.

“It reminds me of a track that I raced at back in California called Kern County,” Deegan commented. “It’s just a smaller version of that with the banking and the straightaways. It’s a little smaller than Kern County, but I’ve raced there, and it’s pretty similar, and I’m catching on pretty quick.”

Now that the teenager from California is starting to find her groove in asphalt racing, she has decided to make her career in NASCAR. Deegan is a member of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class – a program initiated by NASCAR to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming racers competing in the developmental ranks.

“I’m looking more toward the pavement side because I think I can have a bigger, better career with that side,” Deegan elaborated. “I know off road will always be there. That’s where I started, and I love it, and I can always go back there.”

So far, though, things are going well as she’s already gotten media recognition Speed51.com, a short track media outlet owned and operated by Bob Dillner, recently said Deegan was the top female racing prospect in the nation in their annual Short Track Draft.  Despite the pressure from that and her last name, it does not seem to faze the poised and confident racer.

“I think, yes that has put pressure on me,” Deegan remarked. “But, I think pressure is good.  It makes me do better.”

Deegan is not the first driver to join the NASCAR ranks from the off-road racing world. Seven-time and defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion also started out in off-road before moving east and running ASA – logging his first laps in a late model at Southern National.

“I think I see all these other people coming into asphalt racing that came from dirt and they have these great abilities, being able to drive a loose car and being more aggressive,” Deegan stated. “So I think it’s definitely going to help me with my off road racing background, especially seeing that there’s been some competitive big names that have come from the same background.”

Along with racing in Super Late Models on the East Coast, Deegan, who is backed by Monster Energy and Toyota, recently tested in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car for Bill McAnally Racing in Irwindale, California.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

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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Trucks

NASCAR Next Drivers Gilliland, Burton Already Making Big Moves

One of the most exciting aspects of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the huge influx of new talent coming into the series.

Young drivers like Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson — all of whom are less than 25 years old — are filling the void created when established stars such as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and, soon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. step away from the cockpit.

But the young guns of the Cup series are hardly alone.

There is an entire new wave of even younger drivers coming up through the ranks and they are in a hurry to get there.

In exclusive interviews with PopularSpeed.com, drivers Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton talked about the challenges and opportunities ahead of them.

Gilliland, 17, and Burton, 16, are two of the nine drivers in the NASCAR Next program for upcoming racers, and despite their young ages, the two already have impressive records.

After nine races this season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Burton has four victories and leads the points in that division.

In the K&N Pro Series West, Gilliland is the defending champion and the current point leader with four victories in eight races. In his career dating back to 2015, Gilliland has 11 victories in just 23 West starts. And he’s also racing in the K&N Pro Series East, where he has a pair of victories and is second to Burton in points.

As if that wasn’t enough, both Burton and Gilliland are racing limited schedules in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Heady stuff, for a couple of guys who aren’t even old enough to vote yet.

Of course, it helps that the two grew up with fathers who were NASCAR racers, Harrison being the son of Jeff Burton and Todd the son of David Gilliland. Still, these two are getting it done in a big way at a young age.

For his part, Gilliland gives a lot of the credit for his success to the Bill McAnally Racing team that he drives for.

“No driver can do it without a great team and great equipment,” Gilliland told PopularSpeed.com. “They definitely give me the cars I need to be able to win. And from there, it’s just learning for myself. The races we finish second in or don’t win, it’s about learning how to get myself to the race-winning caliber that my cars are.”

As for the best advice Gilliland has gotten from his father, it’s this: “Just stay humble and patient.”

That’s a sound strategy. The opportunities certainly will be there for Gilliland in the future, although like Burton he’s still finalizing his 2018 plans.

“Being 17 years old, there’s really no rush,” said Gilliland. “It’s really about taking your time and making sure you’re 100 percent ready for every opportunity when it presents itself.”

Burton, on the other hand, sounds a little more impatient.

“It’s been a great advantage having my dad in the sport, but I’m ready to make my own name,” Burton said. “Everyone knows me as Jeff Burton’s son. If you Google my name, it comes up as ‘Jeff Burton’s son.’ I’m ready to make my own name and add to my stature.”

For both drivers, racing in the Truck Series this year has been a positive experience.

“It’s been huge,” says Burton, who has two more races in the trucks this year. “I’ve been able to learn from one of the best in the sport in Kyle Busch. And having the experience of racing with the truck guys is huge. It’s a big deal. I’ve been blessed to run with KBM and have some good finishes, but I’m looking for better ones. We haven’t really finished as good as we’ve run.”

Gilliland said he’s enjoyed racing with the Truck Series regulars.

“It’s really cool to be able to gain their respect,” said Gilliland, who has four more Truck Series starts scheduled in 2017.

For now, both Gilliland and Burton are concentrating on running for K&N Pro Series championships and learning what they can in the Truck Series. But it likely won’t be long before they both move up the NASCAR ladder. And they will be fun to watch along the way.

Categories
News

The Future Stars of NASCAR Announced

The 2017-18 class of the NASCAR Next program, was announced on Tuesday and includes some familiar second-generation names, as well as drivers whom you may never heard of.

The program was established to help develop and highlight young drivers who aspire to compete at NASCAR’S top levels. Alumni include current stars Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.

“The NASCAR Next program identifies emerging talent in our sport,” said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president, and chief marketing officer. “Drivers in this year’s class have already achieved success on the track or shown potential, and this program will help them further develop their skills. We look forward to watching these young stars connect with our fans and continue their climb up the NASCAR ladder.”

The selection process includes consulting industry executives, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Council and media members. The candidates are chosen from a pool of drivers between the ages of 15-25, who are actively racing at local tracks or lower-tier NASCAR series.

Here is a breakdown of the 2017-18 class.

Harrison Burton from Huntersville, North Carolina is in his second year of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition, with two wins to his credit. The 16-year-old is the son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Burton.

Chase Cabre is a rookie in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, driving for Rev Racing as part of the NASCAR Drive for the Diversity program. The 16-year-old picked up his first two pole awards in twin features at South Boston, before scoring a best-career finish of fourth.

Hailie Deegan has made a name for herself in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series, becoming the first female to score a podium in series history last season. The daughter of FMX legend Brian Degan won the Lucas Oil Off Road Modified Kart Championship last season.

Todd Gilliland from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina is running both NASCAR K&N Pro Series divisions in 2017, along with a limited NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The son of former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver David Gilliland won the Pro Series East Championship last year.

Riley Herbst raced in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West last season, scoring seven top-fives in 14 races. The Joe Gibbs Racing development driver is competing full-time in the ARCA Racing Series for 2017.

Cayden Lapcevich was a Canadian stand-out last year, winning three events en route to being crowned the 2016 NASCAR Pinty’s Series Champion in his rookie season.

Tj Majeski recently signed a development contract with Roush Fenway Racing to run a select number of NASCAR XFINITY Series events in 2017. The 22-year-old kicked off last year by winning the Super Late Model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway, followed by a third-place finish in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standings.

Chase Purdy from Meridan, Mississippi took home NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rookie honors last year with a track championship at Greenville Pickens Speedway. The 17-year-old is racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this year.

Zane Smith put himself on the scene  by winning the Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in 2015. He finished off the year with a runner-up to Elliott at the Snowball Derby.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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
Development Journalists

Diverse Talent Pool Highlights Newest NASCAR Next Class

On Tuesday evening, NASCAR announced 11 up-and-coming drivers as the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class.

Since 2011, the NASCAR Next initiative has helped drivers develop the professional skills needed to make it at the top level of the sport, as well as garnering the attention of fans, teams, industry executives, and potential sponsors.

NASCAR Next candidates must be between the ages of 15 and 25, with a willingness to compete at the Sprint Cup level, and a strong work ethic that showcases the potential to realize their goal of making it to the Cup level.

Through an evaluation with input from industry executives, the Sprint Cup Series Drivers Council, and the media, 11 drivers were chosen for the sixth installment of the initiative.

This year’s class includes drivers from the United States, Canada, and Israel.

Former members of the NASCAR Next program include Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson.

Meet the NASCAR Next class:

  • Harrison Burton: (15, Huntersville, N.C., K&N East) A three-time Quarter Midget champion, Burton became the youngest driver to make a start in the K&N East Series. The Burton bloodline runs deep with racers. The son of Jeff Burton, he looks to continue the tradition. In 2015, he became the youngest Division 1 winner in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
  • Collin Cabre: (22, Tampa, Fla., K&N East) A graduate of the NASCAR Drive 4 Diversity program, Cabre has experience racing motocross, go-karts, and sprint cars. Last season, he won the K&N East Series finale at Dover.
  • Spencer Davis: (17, Dawsonville, Ga., K&N East) Davis was awarded the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour. He has since moved on to the K&N East Series, where he has notched a top-six finish in each of his seven starts.
  • Alon Day: (24, Ashdod, Israel, Whelen Euro) Day is one of two international drivers to make the list. Last year he won the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series Rookie of the Year by way of a runner-up finish in the standings.
  • Tyler Dippel: (16, Wallkill, N.Y., K&N East) Dippel hails from a dirt racing background, earning Rookie of the Year honors and becoming the youngest winner in the DIRTcar Racing Series. He was victorious in just his second career K&N East Series start.
  • Todd Gilliland: (16, Sherrills Ford, N.C., K&N East, West) Todd is the son of Sprint Cup veteran, David Gilliland, and began his K&N Pro Series career in dramatic fashion; he tied Dan Gurney by winning in his first four career starts between the East and West Series, a record set 60 years ago.
  • Noah Gragson: (17, Las Vegas, K&N East, West) Gragson has had success in the Bandoleros and Legends Divisions at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 2015, he collected two wins in the K&N West Series, enough to earn him Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
  • Gary Klutt: (23, Halton Hills, Ontario, Pinty’s) The second international driver for 2016 and the first full-timer driver from the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, Klutt won his first career pole last season on his way to winning the Jostens Rookie of the Year award. He finished fifth in the standings.
  • Julia Landauer: (24, New York City, N.Y., K&N West) A former contestant on the hit TV show “Survivor” and Stanford grad, Landauer has proved to be a versatile driver over the years. She has raced Formula BMW, Ford Focus Midgets, as well as stock cars.
  • Ty Majeski: (21, Seymour, Wis., Late Models) Majeski has raced go-karts, late models and stock cars, winning two ARCA Midwest Tour titles. At New Smyrna Speedway in February, he collected three wins en route to winning the Late Model championship in the 50th Annual World Series of Stock Car Racing. He recently signed with Roush Fenway Racing as a development driver.
  • Matt Tifft: (19, Hinckley, Ohio, XFINITY, Trucks) The Joe Gibbs Racing development driver is running a part-time schedule with JGL Racing and JGR in the XFINITY Series, and driving in the Camping World Truck Series for Red Horse Racing. He scored his first career XFINITY Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this season. In 2012, Tifft was the ARCA Midwest Series Rookie of the Year.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com

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