NASCAR

Will Hailie Deegan Make it to the Cup Series?

NASCAR
@WesLungwitz

Wes grew up around cars at the family business. He makes no attempt to hide his love of early 90s GM products, and still repents selling his sweet '94 Pontiac Sunbird a few years back.

If you follow stock car racing at all, you’ve heard the name. Hailie Deegan has developed a following.

And one of the key elements to making it in the sport is publicity. If you can make yourself a known entity in the racing world, you can elevate. But if Hailie Deegan is going to be a name you know on Sundays in the future, it will take a perfect combination of many factors.

Hailie Deegan Driving Talent

Let’s first focus on what should be the most important aspect – driver talent. Since moving to the K&N Series in 2018, Deegan has scored three wins to date, which speaks to her ability. While her equipment is good, series like K&N can be an equalizer for someone used to running superior cars in lower events. Even in K&N, everyone in the front of the pack has top-tier equipment, meaning driver talent becomes a major factor. Winning on this level means she can wheel a stock car.

Deegan has been criticized for the way she has won her races – “always passing on the last lap.” While understanding how this is a knock is tough in the first place, it also isn’t by accident

Deegan has been criticized for the way she has won her races – “always passing on the last lap.” While understanding how this is a knock is tough in the first place, it also isn’t by accident. Deegan’s driving coach focused on this technique with her prior to hitting the larger circuits. By making the move on the last lap, and potentially using the bumper to do it, Deegan is assuring her spurned competitor can’t come back to her before the race is over.

While this technique may not make her any friends, it’s effective. And when there is a limited window to keep the spotlight on your driving career, tallying wins is the most important thing a driver can do. Not that it won’t come back at some point – drivers tend to not forget easily, and you often run into the same competitors as you move up.

Hailie Deegan Funding

Unfortunately, a major factor in today’s racing world is money. If you or a sponsor don’t have it, it’s going to be nearly impossible to make it. Luckily for Deegan, she had a bit of a head-start with her dad being an X-Games gold medalist and having some connections. She also has sponsorship, and has gained more along the way, with Toyota being heavily involved in her development.

Starting out is the toughest thing to do in racing, as local tracks can burn a lot of cash, while also having limited reach. Being able to elevate to a larger spotlight such as the K&N Series is huge for a driver’s career, but the pressure to perform also kicks in immediately. Being in a noticeable series is great, but not if you are being noticed not doing well.

Hailie Deegan Development

That brings us to an area that many drivers and their managers have made errors on in the past – development and moving up. Often, sponsors, fans and backers expect a driver to move up unrealistically fast, which can have devastating effects on the driver’s career.

For a recent example, look no further than truck series driver Natalie Decker. It’s been a rough run for her to say the least, having crashed out of approximately half of her entered events. And when she isn’t scoring a DNF, she’s often spinning out and running near the back in good equipment. She didn’t have nearly enough experience before moving to trucks, and now it’s tough to see Decker moving up anytime soon.

David Gilliland also comes to mind. A top prospect a few years ago, he’s since been criticized by Kyle Busch himself as “needing to do better.”

Danica Patrick is potentially the most well-known example. Had Patrick stayed in the Xfinity Series for at least another year to gain experience, confidence and respect, it could have made a world of difference. Instead, she’s now out of racing entirely.

While there have been rumors of Deegan moving up to the Truck Series, and Toyota even promoting the idea, Deegan herself seems to be grounded on this topic. She has stated that she’s fine staying in the K&N Series if it will ultimately further her career and longevity in the sport. Given the potential for a KBM Truck offer for at least a few rides, a statement like that proves that she gets it. This isn’t to say that she won’t drive a few races in 2020 for in the trucks, but keeping it to more familiar short tracks where she can succeed will be crucial. MIle-and-a-halfs and larger can eat up an inexperienced driver.

Hailie Deegan Female Factor and Personality

While it’s the lowest factor on the list, the fact that Deegan is a female can’t be discounted in the world of racing. Being female can be a gift and a curse with stock cars. Often (see Danica example), there is a rush to get a popular female in a top ride for the publicity and fan factor. But that isn’t the best reason to fast-track someone to the Cup Series.

It’s also tough for “old school” crew members and others to take females as seriously as they should, which can lead to miscommunication and problems on the track that really aren’t the driver’s fault. Believing that a driver understands the car and can effectively communicate what needs to be done is crucial, and unfortunately, the good old boy culture still exists in racing to some degree, which can make this difficult.

What Deegan has going for her in this category is her knowledge and personality. She does appear to have a good grasp on the handle of the car and how to communicate what she needs. And she isn’t about to be pushed around by male competitors, claiming “if you want to start it, I will finish it.” Her K&N wins are proof of that.

Hailie Deegan Social Media Factor

Deegan is also young at 17, and naturally a pro on social media. This reach is invaluable for a young driver. She’s likeable and fun on social and tells it like it is. When she makes a pass on the last lap of the race using a bump and run, she’ll be on social that evening further explaining what wasn’t covered on the traditional race coverage.

These kind of moments get shared a lot and create buzz on top of buzz. Deegan is one of the best in recent memory of utilizing social media to her advantage.

Will Hailie Deegan Make it to Cup?

Given everything discussed, it seems like Deegan has as good a chance as anyone to make it to the top level of racing. She appears to have the ability, has the backing, and the promotion machine is in full throat.

In the end, the only thing that will matter for staying power is performance. Provided she’s given the right amount of time to prepare before entering the truck series, how well she does on this level will be a huge determining factor. The same applies for Xfinty, with time and success dictating the elevation to the next level.

Deegan could be very good for the future of Nascar, so here’s hoping all of the stars align, for her sake and the sport.

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