Two seasons into her NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing career, Hailie Deegan will make her debut for ThorSport Racing organization this Friday evening at Daytona when she climbs into the No. 1 Ford Performance F-150 for the curtain raising NextEra Energy 250. Poised to begin her third year in the Truck Series, Deegan believes the change to ThorSport is the clean sheet she needs to make to further accelerate her rise through the NASCAR Truck ranks.
“Yeah, for sure it’s a big change,” said Deegan. “Being on a new team now and with the team changing manufacturers and going from Toyota back to Ford, it is like everything is pretty much a fresh slate for me. I feel like I’ve had a lot of ups and downs the last two years in the Truck Series. I’ve had a few moments where I feel like I showed my abilities, but I feel like I haven’t really been able to really lay it all out on the table and that’s really what I’m looking forward to this year, and it all starts at Daytona.
“I kind of wish it started somewhere else like at Vegas or whatever so it is a little bit more in the driver’s favor and you have a little bit less luck on your side. But then again you have to be lucky in almost every race to have everything go your way. Daytona is the one race that you need to be extra lucky for, so I think starting off at Daytona, I’m going in with just a clear mindset. I’ve talked with my crew chief Rich Lushes a lot and we’ve set our goals of what we want to do and what our plan will be, and I’m excited for it.
“The ThorSport racing team is a very, very established team. They’ve accomplished pretty much every record in the book. They definitely know what they’re doing and I think that going to team and an organization that has so much confidence within themselves. I can already tell from what I’ve experienced from the team that they really believe in me. It’s not like I have not been in the Truck Series for the past two years. The team knows pretty much everything about me because I’ve been racing against their drivers for the past two years. You can see it with me being around everyone that they do believe in me and they have confidence in me, and they want to be able to give me the best equipment to go out there and show my abilities.”
At the Duke Thorson owned and operated race team, Deegan will join three-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton, 2021 Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes and Ty Majeski as ThorSport Racing teammates. And for that new competitive landscape she’ll now be a part of, Deegan is quite pleased.
“With the teammates that I’m going to be having, they’ve all proven themselves for sure and are well established in the Truck Series and our very, very competitive,” she said. “There are a lot of things that I can learn from them this year. I’ll have teammates that know what they’re doing and they know what they need to do and I can already tell that they are open to showing me those things and working with me. It has been really, really nice and it is going to be super good to have, especially having three full-time teammates.
Intriguingly, Deegan will be matched up with crew chief Rich Lashes for the 2023 NASCAR Truck Series. The mastermind behind Ben Rhodes’ runner-up finish in the 2022 Truck Series point standings, Deegan was equal parts thrilled and stunned when she was informed of the inner-team move.
“I was honestly shocked even when the made the decision for me to have the crew chief that I’m going to be going into the 2023 season with,” said Deegan. “I was honestly just hoping and praying that I was going to get this crew chief and it just so happened to work out that Rich Lushes was who Duke Thorson wanted me to be with. Having all of that work out and being given quality stuff from the moment I go over there is going to be really, really nice. I don’t have to get to a point where I have to prove myself in order to be given really top A-level stuff. Going over there and seeing how they want every driver to succeed is super awesome. You know, the past two years with the situations I’ve been given, or what I’ve been on the table with, haven’t necessarily been all what I needed to succeed. I think this year is going to be totally different because I feel like I’m getting everything I need. That makes me more confident in myself that I’m not going to have to go out there and try to attempt to make up for what is lacking.”
So what does Deegan hope to achieve?
“Going into this year my strong suit has been mile and a half tracks,” she said. “I feel like I just have a really good understanding of them. That’s where I’ve had some of my best finishes. The road courses have also been good. On these tracks we are definitely shooting for the stars. I know what I’m being given equipment-wise and team-wise, so I expect a lot out of myself and me being on my A-game and getting a lot of good finishes towards the front. Honestly, I feel like I’m doing everything I can and it motivates me to put even more work in to go above and beyond because I know I’m being given such a great opportunity.”