The side of her race car might say Hailie Deegan, but perhaps it’s time we call her ‘Hailie the Headliner.’
At 17 years old, Deegan quickly took the NASCAR world by storm as a pretty, young, female race car driver. Lately, she’s been taking all the attention, too – albeit for what are arguably the wrong reasons.
Following the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race Saturday at Colorado National Speedway, Deegan was the talk of the town. In the process of winning for the second time this season, Deegan made contact with her Bill McAnally teammate Derek Kraus on the last lap in the final two corners.
Made contact. Ran over. Spun out. That’s what has sparked the latest conversation, not only about how she won, but the fact that Deegan’s three career wins have involved contact.
Unless one is a team owner, sponsor, or NASCAR official, there should be no telling a driver how to hold the steering wheel. What this incident has done instead is solidify the belief that Deegan doesn’t care what anyone on or off the track thinks, and she has repeatedly made it clear she’s here to win races, will do so at any cost, and then climb out and tell you all about it.
Deegan, like a Kyle Busch or Johnny Sauter, Clint Bowyer, and even a Tyler Reddick, is a firecracker personality who can make people cry with laughter or shake with anger.
Here’s how it went down Saturday: Deegan lined up on the inside as the leader for the final restart. Kraus made it three-wide on the inside going into Turn 1 to take the lead, leaving Deegan fighting for second place with Trevor Huddleston. Deegan took second down the backstretch on the final lap, and then into Turn 3 got to the inside of Kraus and sent him around.
Deegan celebrated while Kraus stewed. And when it came to her post-race interviews and social media, Deegan openly shared her side of the story, and offered no apology.
The highlights were that Deegan said she didn’t expect Kraus, who had a broken sway bar, to “take a swing at me like that” with his move in Turn 1. She said he doesn’t want to race a teammate like that.
But “in the end, I told you guys last week, you take a swing at me, I’m going to take a swing at you back.”
Plus, “hard racing’s hard racing. You want to race me hard, I’m going to race you hard. But that was some fun racing, I have to admit.”
There are not enough drivers at any level of NASCAR who openly share their unfiltered thoughts and intentions, let alone follow through with them. Deegan is a breath of fresh air compared to some Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, who nine out of 10 times are flat-out lying when saying they would not make the same move Joey Logano did on Martin Truex Jr. last fall at Martinsville for a chance at winning and competing for a championship.
It’s not like this is a shock either. For months now, Deegan has been adamant with whoever will listen – including on THE RACING WRITER’S PODCAST – that she has to win races and the championship. That attitude is evident with every lap she completes.
Deegan is fearless, determined, and has no reservations on track about her competition – male, female or teammate. And for a sponsor, she’s plenty marketable, and she’s growing quite the fan base.
So right or wrong, Hailie Deegan is a headliner, and this is likely just the start.