CONCORD, N.C. â Brian Deegan rattled off the dates as if he was reading from an annual planner. His daughter, Hailie, had just been introduced as the latest member of Ford Performanceâs driver development program, but the careful and deliberate blueprint for her long-term future was also top of mind.
âSo itâd be ARCA, 2020; â21, trucks; â22, trucks; â23, â24 Xfinity, which is kind of what weâre hoping and laying out as our goal for her to have that path and then get to Cup,â Brian Deegan said, spelling out the provisional plan for the 18-year-old prospectâs aspirations for reaching NASCARâs major leagues.
âWhere do you see yourself in five years?â is almost a job interview trope by now. For Hailie Deegan, that question already has a tentative outline, but with a heavy emphasis on a measured approach.
Deegan is set for a full 20-race schedule next season in the ARCA Menards Series, joining DGR-Crosleyâs operation for 2020. Her slate also includes spot duty in IMSA sports-car competition, and the potential for a midseason debut in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series was breathed more than once during Tuesdayâs news conference at the Ford Performance Technical Center.
Mark Rushbrook, the global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, indicated that no firm timetable was in place for Deeganâs advancement to NASCARâs top division and that any moves up the career ladder would be determined by her progress at each step. While acknowledging that it was enticing to possibly accelerate Deeganâs timeline, Rushbrook said that a more gradual track was something mutually agreed upon from an early date.
âFrom the very first serious discussion, that was very clear â both from us and the Deegan representation â that thatâs the way everybody wanted to approach it,â Rushbrook said. âThereâs no good reason to jump to Cup too quickly and to not win and be competitive. We donât want to do that, they donât want to do that, so I think weâve got the right approach, the right timing.â
Not that itâs been easy. Deegan branched off from her full-time duties last season in the K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Menards Series West) for some seasoning in the ARCA Menards Series. All the while, Derek Kraus â her then-teammate at Bill McAnally Racing and the eventual West champion â delved into the Gander Trucks ranks with four starts over the course of the 2019 campaign.
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Itâs prompted talk about when Deeganâs own shot at the tailgate tour might happen, but those thoughts have been tempered by patience from all sides.
âThereâs moments where you want to rush it a little bit, and then you have to realize, man, I canât make the mistake of doing that,â Deegan says. âBecause at the end of the day, you really only have one reputation and one shot, and once you kind of get that bad reputation and donât have some good results, then itâs kind of over. Itâs really hard to build it back. Itâs going to take a lot more money and funding, so you want to make sure you do it the right way, the best way thatâs not going to keep you in a giant hole, trying to find sponsors that want to commit to you and are on the same page and donât try to rush you.â
Deegan has made little secret that a potential Gander Trucks start on Eldora Speedwayâs dirt half-mile is on her wish list of possible appearances. Her background in off-road racing plus her penchant for dirt-track showcases is what helped her to victory in the West Series opener this year at Las Vegas Motor Speedwayâs dusty bullring.
The ultimate goal, however, is a well-earned place in NASCARâs premier series, a position thatâs going to take time, no matter how methodical the progression.
âOf course thereâs a rush to get there, and itâs hard when youâre looking over the fence and youâre in one series and you see that other series as much bigger and more attention,â Brian Deegan said. âTrust me, we love media and we love attention, but the problem is, we gotta take our time, right, because what happens if she rushes there and just canât hang with the pace and then itâs done, right? And then all that for that. So itâs important for us to take some time.
âThe bottom line, thatâs most important, and Ford understands that. Thatâs why we laid out the deal the way we did. Itâs a clear-cut path to get through those ranks and get to Cup. Thatâs what we wanted to lay out because the most important thing was as a family, making a decision of where can we be thatâs going to be the best path for us to develop and learn and get faster and faster.â