Ford Performance NASCAR: Hailie Deegan Heading Back to Native California for Sonoma Event

Hailie Deegan, driver of the No. 1 Monster Energy Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for David Gilliland Racing, was a guest today on the weekly Ford Performance media call.  She answered questions from the media about her season to date and this weekend’s return to Sonoma Raceway.

HAILIE DEEGAN, No. 1 Monster Energy Ford F-150 – WHERE ARE YOU ON THE AGGRESSION SCALE?  “It’s really crazy in the Truck Series.  I feel like there’s a lot that happens during these races, a lot of chaos, so I think that it’s hard to avoid it.  I think sometimes if you don’t stand up for yourself or do what they’re doing to you back, you’ll get run over quick and it happens quick.  So, I think just from now on, and I feel like I’m trying to do more of it, is just racing people how they race me.  Someone like, for instance, Ross Chastain.  When he comes down to the Truck Series he races aggressive, but he does it in a respectful way.  We can race each other really, really hard, but in the most respectful way.  We’re not just cleaning people out.  He’ll race me hard and I’ll race him hard back and it’s super respectful, so that’s what I like.  I really, really like that and I think there are some instances where there are a few drivers in the Truck Series that the moment they get to me they try and move you and you’re like, ‘What did I do?’  But I think that it kind of depends on who you’re racing around.  You kind of have to know who you’re racing around and I feel like that affects it a lot is everyone that you could be around at that moment you have to decide like, ‘OK, how are they gonna race me?  Are they gonna race me with respect or am I gonna get buy them and they’re just gonna try to wreck me the next corner?’”

WHAT ABOUT LAST WEEKEND?  YOU WERE THE CENTER OF A LITTLE BIT GOING ON?  “Are you talking about with the 52?  I think that what initially all started it was it happened going into turn one – kind of on the frontstretch but in turn one – I was kind of hanging on the 42’s left-rear, just trying to pull him back before we got to the entry of the corner, and I think when I did that I was just so close to the 42 that the rear – because of the skew and everything the rears are out just a little bit more – and I think it just barely got into Freisen, but it was enough to kind of upset my truck and kind of put me a little bit into the 42, so I didn’t mean to do anything to the 42 at all or Freisen, but it was just kind of like more of a racing situation.  Honestly, I didn’t even know really what happened.  It’s not like you can see very well out the right-rear, so I think that it was just kind of a racing little mishap of racing each other hard.  I’ve been used up, I feel like, by quite a few people on track and I thought I was just racing hard.  I didn’t think there was much wrong with it.  Obviously, if I would have wrecked him or anything like that, yeah, I would have felt bad and it wouldn’t have been intentional, but I felt like we were racing pretty hard right there for the position we were in and then he ended up driving me down track and stuff.  It was just a mess, but I think that’s just kind of what comes with it.  I’m no stranger to being flipped off on the track.  It’s become a pretty common thing, but I feel like it happens a lot during these races.  I feel like it kind of goes back and forth during the whole race with a lot of people and not just me, but seeing it from an outside perspective.  There’s just a lot of chaos in the Truck Series and I think it’s almost a discipline issue.  It’s like if you’re building a building and it has no structure, it’s gonna fall apart.  If you’re raising a kid with no discipline, they’re not gonna behave the best way possible and I feel like the Truck Series, kind of what’s lacking right now is that discipline.  You’ve got a lot of young kids in there trying to prove themselves and then you have some of the older talent that has a lot of experience and it’s not meshing well.  I feel like there needs to be some structure to it in order to get it under control because I know, at least for me, if I’m gonna go hit somebody or wreck somebody if there is a black flag or some sort of discipline, some type of repercussion that I could face because of it, I’m probably gonna decide whether or not to do that and not just instantly do it because you know there’s nothing bad that’s gonna come of it after.”

SO IT’S KIND OF LIKE THE WILD WILD WEST?  “I haven’t seen many people get penalized in the Truck Series for what happens on track.  It’s kind of disheartening because you wish there were situations you’re in like, ‘Man, I didn’t deserve that,’ and I just get put in these positions and I know there are other drivers that probably feel the same way, but I feel like there needs to be more discipline and structure in the Truck Series.”

NASCAR SHOULD TAKE MORE OF A ROLE?  “If we decide that’s a racing incident, all good.  But if you see it’s blatantly intentional or something like that, I don’t know exactly how you’d do it, but as I was growing up if you did that you get put to the rear.  That’s enough discipline to make someone have to decide and make a decision.  Should I take that risk or should I not?”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO INSPIRE WOMEN WHO WANT TO BE DRIVERS?  “I love seeing girls get into racing, especially from a young age.  When you see little girls around the racetrack or even coming up to me and saying ‘I started racing because of you.’  Or have their parents come up to me and say, ‘I got my daughter into racing because she watched you race and it made her want to get into racing.’  I love that.  I honestly think that some of my best motivation comes from that – to show that I’m inspiring girls to get into racing and show that it is possible.  Yeah, it may be hard, but it’s possible.”

IF THERE WAS A SONG FROM ANY GENRE THAT DESCRIBES YOU AS A PERSON AND DRIVER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?  “That’s a hard one.  I think it kind of depends what kind of mood I’m in.  My categories vary.  One day it’s like 90’s rap.  Sometimes it’s kind of sad, like Lana Del Ray, and then you have my old 80’s rock.  I have three different genres I go to depending on my mood.”

ANY POSITIVES YOU’VE TAKEN AWAY FROM THE START OF THE SEASON?  “Yeah, for sure.  I feel like me as a driver, I’ve improved.  There’s been a lot of stuff this year where we’ve gone into little situations or just like on track stuff to where you just get into someone else’s mess that happened, or just little things happening.  At Gateway, we had the generator overheat in qualifying, so we weren’t able to cool down the truck, which means you can’t tape off, which taping off in qualifying at somewhere like Gateway, talking to some of the other drivers who have been there a lot and crew chiefs in the Truck Series, that’s worth like six-tenths.  So, that affects my starting position and then Ilmore was just pulling some of the data and stuff off all of the trucks and they noticed that on our truck something with the fuel pressure wasn’t right, so they ended up changing up the fuel cell.  So instead of starting 26th, which is already not great, we had to start at the rear, so I feel like it’s very hard to overcome a lot of those things happening and I guess it’s just luck.  I don’t really know what to say, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s out of my control right now that’s happening and It’s hard as a young driver who it’s only my second season in the Truck Series, I didn’t get much practice last year and there’s only 20 or 30 minutes of practice usually at most of these tracks this year, it’s hard to overcome a lot of that stuff when you’re still trying to learn yourself and trying to take in as much information yourself when you’re starting at the rear trying to just get to where you want to be and go from there and actually go and develop and improve.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RACE IN YOUR HOME STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIS WEEKEND?  “I’m excited.  I’ve raced at Sonoma before in the K&N Series.  I’ve qualified on the pole there before and it’s fun.  I mean, I kind of got used to, when I raced on the west coast in the K&N Series, driving on those tracks and they had no grip, none, because they’re sitting in the sun for all those years and it just lacks a lot of grip. That’s kind of what I got used to and I feel like that’s why I was pretty decent at Sonoma when we went there for the first time.  You kind of get the luxury once you start racing on the east coast that these tracks have a lot more grip than they do on the west coast, so I’m excited to go back there.  I think I’ve got some good notes from the year’s past of me going there.  Obviously, they trucks haven’t been there since ‘98, so it’s hard to go off notes from then, but I think having that little bit of experience in the west series is gonna help a lot – just firing off in practice, knowing what you want out of the truck, knowing how it kind of should feel and have at least an idea of it, and knowing those kind of markers on the track, so I’m excited.  I’ve been using the Ford sim a lot and trying to get some more laps there.  Joey Hand has been helping me on the sim, just kind of perfecting and tweaking little things that, in his opinion as a road course racer, could make me better on road courses.”

DOES YOUR SRX EXPERIENCE AT KNOXVILLE GIVE YOU AN EDGE FOR NEXT WEEKEND?  “I love Knoxville.  Knoxville is a really cool track to drive on and racing the SRX Series was really fun.  It was crazy how comparable the SRX cars were to the truck handling-wise.  I feel like it was a lot of fun and I feel like it translated pretty well and I feel like going back there it’s probably gonna be pretty crazy, like how it was last year, but I think with the experience we have there we should be pretty good.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TRACK ON THE SCHEDULE AND WHY?  “I am a big fan of mile-and-a-halves.  I just enjoy it.  I feel like there’s a lot of information I’ve learned over the last year-and-a-half in the trucks and I think that in the mile-and-a-half stuff I’m able to apply it a lot more, just because it kind of slows down a little bit.  You’re kind of having a little bit more time to kind of decide what you’re gonna do.  I feel like it opens my mind to be able to use other things that I’ve learned the last year-and-a-half and apply them a little bit better, but mile-and-a-half stuff is really fun for me.  I think Kansas, Vegas, those are kind of my favorite tracks.  Gateway, obviously, I was really looking forward to for this year, but it didn’t go as planned.  We got a decent finish away from it, but I had higher hopes for Gateway and I think my truck was pretty good that if we weren’t in the situation even before the race that we were in, we probably could have gotten a better finish.”

HOW DOES THE K&N CAR COMPARE TO A TRACK ON A ROAD COURSE?  “I'll let you know after.  I’m hoping it compares pretty good because I do have a lot of notes from back then of me asking other drivers what to do, so I have their notes too, which is pretty nice.  I’ve had the same laptop for six years, so that’s a plus.  I think that going back to Sonoma in the truck is gonna be a little bit different.  Obviously, the racing is probably gonna be a lot harder.  This is a lot deeper field of good competition, but I think, at least for me, it gives me an idea of what to do.  It gives me a base to go off of.  Obviously, you could go in a couple different directions with stuff, but I feel like I have a good, solid base from being there in the K&N race.”

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN YOURSELF GROW ON AND OFF THE TRACK SINCE JOINING THE TRUCK SERIES?  “I think last year I was lacking a little confidence in myself, just like when you go from running top three, top five every single week in K&N, ARCA, that kind of stuff – able to hop in dirt cars and do really good – and then all of a sudden you get in the Truck Series and you’re like, ‘I’m getting in wrecks every single weekend.  Is my reaction time terrible?  What’s going on?’  I live a little bit sometimes too much in the moment and I feel like it kind of hurts me because if there’s a problem right now, I want to fix it right now.  That’s not always the case when it comes to racing stock cars.  It doesn’t always work out like that, so I’ve kind of had to get used to that and kind of accept what I was working with and making the best of it, and trying to fix little things as we go and not try to fix everything right then in the moment.  It’s tough.  I mean, it’s very, very tough, but I think we’re just trying to do the best we can right now and just kind of get as many good finishes as we can, staying out of all the wrecks happening because I swear every single race in the Truck Series only half the field finishes.”

HOW ENJOYABLE WAS RUNNING SRX LAST YEAR?  “It was a great experience.  I never would have thought I would be sitting around at an autograph session with Bill Elliott.  I was right next to him talking to him the whole time, and it’s crazy when you bring this older generation of racers – some are retired and some still race, but you bring them together.  For me, this is my best opportunity to get the most information possible as a driver and kind of learn the ropes of everything from people who have, first of all, made it to that level, been at that level for a long time, and are out of it now because they’ve been so successful.  I think there’s a lot of good advice and good tips you can learn from those type of guys and I’m excited to go back.  That was a great experience.  I don’t think I could complain about one thing in the SRX Series.”

HOW VALUABLE IS IT BEING AROUND THOSE GUYS AND HOW MUCH CAN YOU BRING INTO THE TRUCK SERIES?  “I think when you learn anything from drivers who have had a lot of success that you can apply those really anywhere.  I feel like I have this toolbox and I’m always trying to add new tools to it.  I feel like you can take a lot of things away, whether you apply them in the Truck Series or dirt racing or SRX Series, wherever you apply them as a driver or it could just be literally applying them in your life.  I think there’s a lot of things you can take away from people who have experience.”

IS IT A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE RACING AGAINST THOSE GUYS WHO HAVE MORE EXPERIENCE AS OPPOSED TO THE TRUCK SERIES, WHERE THE COMPETITORS ARE YOUNGER?  “For sure, 100 percent.  I think when you have these guys who have been racing for so long and they, first of all, have earned their respect, but they’re respectful when they’re racing around you because they know that you’re young and you’re trying to learn from them.  So, I really look at it is how they race me, I try to race people back with, but, obviously, I’m gonna have a lot more respect right from the get-go of those guys’ experience.”

AT THE START OF THE YEAR THERE WAS SOME TALK ABOUT XFINITY RACES FOR YOU THIS YEAR.  IS THAT STILL A POSSIBILITY?  “It’s tough trying to get funding midway through the season or trying to figure things out for a potential end of the year deal for at least me in these situations.  We’re still working on it and trying to do what we can, but there’s nothing we really have set in stone at all right now.  It’s all just kind of seeing what we could possibly do in the future.  I wish I had an answer because I want answers myself, but nothing set yet.”

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2022, Issue 6, Posted 9:49 PM, 06.08.2022