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Hailie Deegan joins ThorSport Racing for a pivotal NASCAR Truck Series season

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Any driver who finishes worse than 20th in the Truck Series for two consecutive seasons will raise doubts about whether that driver has what it takes to reach NASCAR Cup Series.

This type of outcome does not only indicate confidence in a high promise of leadership potential. This does not mean that the promise is not there, just that it creates doubt.

for Hailey DeeganIt’s another year in the Truck Series after two frustrating seasons. And if the 21-year-old wants to be taken seriously as a potential Cup driver, she’ll likely have to prove it this year.

It will change teams as ThorSport Racing will change manufacturers from Toyota to Ford, filling the role of David Gilliland Racing, who switched from Ford to Toyota.

While DGR is still a growing organization – it has won 2022 races with Ryan Preece And the Todd Gilliland – ThorSport is an organization that usually puts most of their drivers into qualifying. Its drivers ran out front, winning three races last year and all four drivers had made the postseason.

So if Deegan, who achieved an average finish of 20.9 in 2021 and 22.1 in 2022, is consistently running 20 this year, no weaker equipment can be cited. She can’t use lack of training as a reason because she has now raced most tracks at least twice in a truck.

Now is the time to show if Deegan – who has won the award for most popular driver in the series in the past two years – has “it” and the potential for success in NASCAR.

“I believe in myself,” said Deegan. “I think I have it, and I think we may have missed some pieces of the puzzle because there are so many pieces to the puzzle.

“You’ve come to a point in your development where you have to take the next step, and I think ThorSport is a very well-established team with a very well-established success trajectory. … They’ve been a good, consistent team and I feel like this is going to be a good year for me.”

After two truck seasons, many thought Deegan’s next move would be Xfinity series. Entered two years ago, the Trucks won races in the ARCA West Series and finished third in the ARCA National Series standings.

Two years should have been enough to show her what she could do. But it struggled, sometimes off the pace of the best trucks and sometimes sinking in the middle of the pack, which is where bad things can happen.

“I feel like I’ve got it now and I understand what you need to be successful as a driver, what the team needs to do on their part, and the people that need to be around you,” said Deegan.

Deegan is not used to being patient. She comes from a family of strong athletes, with her father, Brian Deegan, one of the most famous and successful motorsport stars in the world.

But she is “only” 21 years old. She didn’t start her car career until she was a teenager. So there is reason to hope that she can be a big star in 2023.

Hailie Deegan talks about how social media helped launch her career

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Hailie Deegan talks about how social media helped launch her career

Hailie Deegan explains how her social media following helped launch her motorsports career.

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ThorSport will name a Championship Crew Chief with Deegan having Crew Chief Rich Lushes to direct its team. Lushes is guided Ben Rhodes to the 2021 Truck Series title.

“We really believe we can offer Hayley something that she hasn’t been able to achieve yet,” said Alison Thorson, family spokesperson for the ThorSport Racing team owned by her parents, and those are the same goals we achieve with our team. other drivers.”

Ford Performance, which signed Deegan to a development deal two years ago, is hoping that the third year of Deegan’s development support will be a year that pays off. She spoke to some Xfinity Series teams about possibly running for them next season but then ended up convincing ThorSport to make the switch.

ThorSport released Christian Ex to make room for Degan.

“In that first discussion, Hailie was part of it,” Ford’s global motorsports director Mark Rushbrook said of the talks with ThorSport. It was a question from ThorSport, ‘Can Hailie come to ThorSport?’ They wanted her. They wanted to be part of her continued development.”

If Deegan was disappointed that the Xfinity ride hadn’t arrived after finishing 13th in its Las Vegas debut in October, it didn’t show any of that at its introductory ThorSport press conference. She was optimistic and had the feeling that just working with a new team with a strong pedigree would boost her career.

“Wherever I ended up, I just wanted to be in a good place,” said Deegan. “I just wanted to be somewhere where I really felt like I was around the best equipment and people and the quality of people who care about my racing.

“That’s a great thing I feel here at ThorSport is just accepted. It just feels like a family environment.”

Deegan knows all eyes will be watching.

“I’ve been used to stress all my life,” she said. “It’s been on me from the start, so at the end of the day there’s pressure for some reason and I feel like if you can’t handle the pressure, you probably shouldn’t have that pressure on you.

“I think I’m going to go out there and do the best I can, work as hard as I can for it, and I know I’m doing the best I can and doing everything I can and everyone else sees that, that we’re bound to have more success.”

Thinking out loud

Deegan wouldn’t be the only driver in a developmental series with something to prove next year. There will be two drivers with NASCAR Cup Series experience looking to show they deserve to get back to the top level.

John Hunter Nemechek (Joe Gibbs Racing) f Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing) They both have full-time Xfinity Series rides in strong teams. If they win races and challenge for the championship, they get to see several Cup teams. If they don’t, their racing career will be far from certain.

Nemechek, 25, drove as a rookie in the 2020 Cup, finishing 27th in the standings at Front Row Motorsports. He left to drive for Toyota, and has spent the past two years primarily in trucks, winning seven races. Some ill-advised moves resulted in him not running in the championship race this year, but he will head to Xifinity racing full-time in 2023. He’s had five top 5s and one win in 16 Xfinity starts in the past two years.

Custer turns 25 next month and has been a full-time runner at the Cup for the past three years. He won as a junior at Kentucky but hasn’t had a top 5 and five top 10s in the past two years. SHR elected to replace him in the Cup with Ryan Preece. Custer won seven Xfinity races in 2019 and had one win and three top-10 finishes in five Xfinity races last year.

social lights

Today’s stats

The driver has only won twice in both stages and then the race in 2022: Chase Elliott At the second Atlanta race and Kyle Larson in Homestead.

They said so

“There is a lot of speculation but nothing we will comment on.” —Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Motorsports at Ford, based on speculation that Ford is interested in entering Formula 1 racing

Bob Pokeras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene, and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobocrassand subscribe to FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.


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