DAYTONA BEACH, Fl. (WFXR) — For the first time in its 61-year history, NASCAR’s regular season makes a stop at Daytona’s road course.
But before stock car racing’s top drivers take the track, a rising star in motorsports will get behind the wheel in Friday’s ARCA series race with an eye on racing with the best in the future.
“The hardest thing about road courses are figuring out the track,” said Hailie Deegan, driver of the No. 4 Monster Energy Ford. “That’s the first thing you need to do.”
Luckily for Deegan, she’s already had experience this year on Daytona’s road course, climbing into a sports car back in January during the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
“It just so happened to be luck of the draw for me,” Deegan said. “The fact that I’ve had the experience there and there’s no real opportunities to be on the track before the race. We only get an hour of practice so I feel like I’m going to be more comfortable and make the best of the situation and not much practice.”
A month after driving the road course, Deegan finished second on the regular track in this year’s ARCA Series opener at Daytona International Speedway. It tied the best finish by a female driver in an ARCA Series race. She’s still looking for her first career win on the circuit but the 19-year-old California-native has bigger goals in mind.
“It’s having a long-term mindset. My goal for my career and my life isn’t just to win an ARCA race or multiple ARCA races and an ARCA championship,” Deegan said. “It’s to get to the Cup series and race and be able to win that series. That’s the long term goal and it’s gaining that good foundation to get there. It’s not just focus on this year or even next year. It’s a long term goal of where I want to end up for my life.”
Hailie Deegan is the daughter of freestyle motocross and X Games legend Brian Deegan. And her brothers are also motocross racers. With sights set on Cup racing, Deegan and her racing family has already made sacrifices.
“The hot spot for NASCAR racing is North Carolina, the east coast,” Deegan said. “It’s definitely harder for a stock car driver to make it coming from California if you aren’t willing to move and move your whole program to North Carolina. You have to be willing to do that. That’s something my family has been willing to do.”
No matter how long it takes to make it to the top, Deegan is in it for the long haul. Friday’s road course race at Daytona is just part of a much longer road ahead for the young driver.
“Racing is something that I’ve pretty much only known growing up. I’ve always focused on racing. Everything I did was for racing,” Deegan said. “It was always to get better at racing and I think I’ve always had that mindset and I’m never going to lose that.”