Deegan Trades In Toyotas For Fords

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 17 2019
Hailie Deegan will drive Fords next season. (File photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – For two years, Hailie Deegan was considered one of Toyota’s rising NASCAR stars with her history-making performances in the K&N Pro Series West, but that changed Tuesday when her move to Ford was announced.

Deegan, who in 2018 became the first female to win a race in K&N West (renamed ARCA Menards Series West for 2020), has signed a driver development contract with Ford. Next year, she will compete full-time in the 20-race ARCA Series with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move to Ford last week. She also will pilot a Mustang GT4 for Multimatic Motorsports in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and continue to compete in off-road truck racing. Her Ford debut is scheduled for Jan. 24 at Daytona in the Michelin Pilot Challenge endurance race. Chase Briscoe, also a Ford development driver, is expected to be her co-driver.

“I think Ford understands what development is and development isn’t just paying for a ride to go race,” Deegan said Tuesday during a press conference at the Ford Performance Technical Center. “It’s developing you to be a better driver for the future and for what your end goal is, which is Cup racing. Ford came to us a few months ago and wanted to start a development side in the younger levels of NASCAR. 

“My dad was a Ford driver back in the day … so I’m definitely use to everyone here. It’s almost like coming back to something I was already a part of.”

Deegan’s father, Brian, drove a Ford Fiesta in the Global Rallycross Championship and won a gold medal in the Rallycross competition at X Games 17 in 2011. He also drove a Ford Raptor in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series. The older Deegan approached Ford about his daughter when she set her sights on NASCAR, but at that time the manufacturer didn’t have a driver development program. When Mark Rushbrook took over as Ford Performance Motorsports global director, that philosophy changed.

Still, Ford hasn’t saturated its driver development program and it’s that approach that Deegan believes will benefit her career.

“Toyota gave me a good base and that’s something I’m super thankful for, but at the end of the day there are so many Toyota drivers and there are not many seats,” Deegan said. “So I think we made the best decision for my career long term. They’re not investing in me to lose me. They’re investing in me so we can make it to the top levels and have success in the top three levels. 

“If I hit all my goals, do everything I said I would do and perform, I will be here for a long time.”  

  Rushbrook said ARCA was the logical next step for the teenager.

“The agreement that we had from day one … was we want her to grow at the right rate, not too fast, not too slow,” Rushbrook said. “There are no firm commitments in forward years in terms of how quickly (things progress). It’s going to be dependent upon what we see on track. Not just in results, but also in driver maturity.  

“Hailie caught our eye with what she was doing on-track and when we had the opportunity it was the right match and the right time for us to take that next step. There is no reason to jump to Cup too quickly. 

“I personally started watching Hailie in 2018. I certainly was aware of her before that and there were others in the Ford camp … who saw Hailie as a child when they would go to the track for Brian. When the 2019 season started she was definitely on our radar for consideration.”  

  In Deegan’s two full-time seasons driving for Toyota and Bill McAnally Racing, she recorded three victories, two during the 2019 season. In 14 starts this year, she earned three poles, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes and finished third in the point standings. While Deegan’s primary focus is on ARCA next year she didn’t rule out making her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut.

“If everything goes as planned, my goal would be to race ARCA this year and maybe a few truck races, if things fall together. It depends on how the beginning of the year goes,” Deegan said. “I want to be able to do good at every single level. I don’t want to move too fast, but I also don’t want to hang down in a series too long.”   

Deegan, who recently celebrated her 18th birthday, said she would continue to reside in California, but would eventually like to move to North Carolina. 

  “My parents still love coming to every single race and flying with me to all the races, so I don’t think that’s something they’re going to give up,” Deegan said with a laugh. “There is always a family member at every one of my races. I don’t go by myself. They’re fully involved and I don’t foresee me leaving without them.” 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 17 2019
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