In part because she is a female in a vastly male-dominated sport, Hailie Deegan, the 18-year-old driver from Temecula, Calif., had one of the most noteworthy seasons of any stock-car driver, winning two races and three pole positions in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, and finishing third in the standings. She also had a top-five finish and four top-10 finishes in six races a level up from the K&N Pro Series.
Where does she go from here? I asked her that and a few other questions.
What are your plans for 2020?
As of now, Iâm focused on finishing out the year and getting sponsor commitments for next year. Thatâs the first baseline before we really go to any teams to see what we want to do. I think itâs just a matter of getting our budget set for next year, you have to get those sponsor commitments, and everything figured out. Itâs just a matter of time before we figure out what weâre doing. As soon as I know, I will let all of you guys know. Itâs been a crazy past couple of weeks trying to get everything figured out.
Whatâs your ideal schedule for 2020?
I think next year, if I had the perfect scenario, full-time ARCA would be my first commitment. Itâs just a matter of if we can get enough funding to go do that. Iâd be really excited because that quality equipment, Iâd almost rather race less races with the best equipment than have good, OK equipment but all the races. I think itâs just a matter of what can we do with what funding that we have to get me in the best possible equipment to have the best possible finishes.
Would you be OK being in the same situation for next year that you were this year?
Racing in the West Series has given me a great transition experience from off-road to pavement. It definitely does help learning all these short tracks and getting that driving style. When everything is compacted on the short track, so much more happens really quick. Itâs not so much long races. Youâre not really pacing yourself much. Iâd say if I had to do another year like this year, I wouldnât be mad, but I would definitely want to get more experience on the bigger tracks.
Has this been a good season?
I think itâs had its ups and downs. I definitely made a lot of goals, and a few I didnât reach, and a few I did. At the end of the day, I did want to win more races, that championship I really want. At the end of the day, you donât always get what you want. I think this was a good season. I learned a lot and at the end of the day, Iâm here to learn and weâre not even at the top three levels yet, so we are trying to learn as much as we can now and moving forward with it.
What aspect of racing is your strongest?
I feel like Iâm pretty good at the aggression, getting up on the wheel. You never have to tell me to drive deeper into the corner. Thatâs something that my spotter is always like, âBackup your corner, backup your corner. Save the tires.â Thatâs something I feel like itâs almost better to have to back someone down than to push them forward.
Where do you need more experience?
Now that Iâm getting on the bigger tracks, I need more experience with the air, the drafting and stuff like that. This is something that will take time to learn and itâs definitely going to be a learning curve, and I can already tell it is. Iâm having fun learning everything that comes with it.
Do you feel you need more superspeedway experience?
The biggest thing that I am going to have a learning curve, not a struggle or anything with, is definitely going to take a lot of time, is the superspeedway racing. Anything really over a mile-and-a-half is where it comes into a big play. Thatâs something that is going to be a learning curve. Especially with all the short tracks Iâve been driving these last two years.
What have you learned off the track this season?
Throughout this season, I have been able to learn what valuable, quality equipment is. How youâre not always going to have races that are going to be good. Youâre going to have a lot more bad races than you are good races, and itâs how you learn from those bad races that turn it into good learning experiences. I think not getting frustrated, being patient, Iâd say cautious with how you drive. Thereâs just been so many things Iâve learned all year.Â I need to be more patient on the track, and things that are going to take me forward and heighten my career more.