Talking with 17-Year-Old Hailie Deegan, First Female NASCAR K&N Pro Series Winner

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Hailie Deegan graduated high school this summer at just 16-years old. She accepted her diploma and then got into the No. 19 Toyota to drive at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. She’s not your typical teenager. This weekend, Deegan celebrated another milestone when she became the first female driver to win in the K&N Pro Series.

Deegan is a surprisingly down-to-earth young woman who is steadfastly focused on her NASCAR career. The daughter of driver and X-Games athlete Brian Deegan, racing has always been a part of her life. It’s not something she suddenly decided she wanted to do, but something she could never image not doing.

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A part of the NASCAR Next program, which features young drivers in the early stages of their careers, Deegan has quickly learned to handle the track alongside veterans. On graduation day, she managed a 7th place finish, which she was quite proud of at the time.

That was back in June and since then, Deegan has made short work of the items on her list of 2018 Goals.

We asked Deegan if she was surprised by her win this weekend or if she was confident going in that she could come out in the top spot. “We definitely were fast in practice, but qualifying I messed up. I got fourth in qualifying,” Deegan said.

Despite that rough start, Deegan was undeterred and still hoped for a win. “There was still part of me though that was like maybe I was just slow. Going into that night, I knew it was going to be tough, but I never thought – it was 50/50. There was part of me where I thought we had the Toyota to win, but there was part of me where it was like, my luck something would go wrong. It was a great night and I’m just thankful to have had it.”

Getting that win required a tough call. Teammate Cole Rouse was just ahead of her in the last lap at the Meridian Speedway and Deegan gave him a shove to get to the front of the line.

“I’ve practiced that move hours and hours and hours at the kart track. I’ve gone there and we’ve done that – we did it right before the race for six, seven hours. I practiced just bump and runs because I knew that’s what it was going to take to win that race or at least finish in the top spots and somehow it all worked out.”

What was unplanned was having to use that move on her own teammate, which wasn’t ideal. “…I had that planned since the night before. Just not necessarily with my Toyota teammate. Cole (Rouse), I’m sorry you just got put in the middle of it,” Deegan said when we asked about her decision to bump Rouse.

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It’s been a big year for Deegan, but she has no intention of easing up in 2019. What’s next for this up and coming driver? “It really depends on what we’re racing, but I have no clue what we’re racing in next year. Right now, we don’t know what we’re doing for the 2019 season, but whatever series I’m racing in whether it’s K&N, ARCA, Trucks, Xfinity, Cup, I want to win at every level before I move up,” Deegan said.

“I think that’s something in K&N – I just don’t want to win one race, I want to win multiple. I want to go for championships and I want to be battling every single race for the win and I think that’s something we need to do in every series before we think about making the jump to the next one.”

If this season is any indication, we can expect to see Deegan crossing more wins off her list in the coming years.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin

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