Hailie Deegan has had a steep learning curve to overcome in her rookie NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season in 2021, but on Friday in the Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the 20-year old driver came home an impressive seventh.
For Deegan, the incredible finish could be the start of gaining some momentum for next season.
“Just being around everything, like, hey we have to finish out the season strong,” Deegan said. “We’ve had a rough year. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve had our good moments. We’ve had our not so good moments, and to come out here and get a good, solid finish and have something to build off of these next couple of races to end this season, it’s going to be huge for me.”
Deegan ran well for the majority of the race, and when things got ultra chaotic in the final Stage of the event, it was Deegan — the rookie — who drove like a veteran in avoiding the carnage to score her first-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series top-10 finish.
Heading into Friday’s race, Deegan’s career-best finish was 13th, which she had achieved twice.
But in order to score the great finish on Friday, Deegan had to endure a nearly one-hour delay for a power outage at the track. She also had to skillfully avoid a massive melee, which involved at least nine drivers when John Hunter Nemechek’s truck lost power coming off of turn four.
Then, as Deegan was running 10th on the track, she missed a crash involving Ryan Truex on the final lap. The accident led to Deegan picking off three spots in the final half of the last lap of the race.
While this is a big milestone for Deegan’s career, it is uncharted territory for a female driver in NCWTS history.
Deegan becomes the fourth female driver to score a top-10 finish in the series’ history, but she is the first to ever score a top-10 finish at a non-superspeedway track.
Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Angela Ruch are the other previous female drivers with top-10 finishes in NCWTS competition.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.