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Hailie Deegan Salvages 18th-Place Finish Despite Destroyed Race Car

Hailie Deegan Martinsville finishes 18th destroyed car NASCAR Xfinity Series Cook Out 400

Photo Credit: Toby Christie, TobyChristie.com

After being wiped out by Brennan Poole on Lap 36 of Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series DUDE Wipes 250 at Martinsville Speedway, it seemed any hopes of getting a decent finish were dashed for AM Racing’s Rookie of the Year contender Hailie Deegan.

As the 22-year-old driver spun off the front bumper of Poole’s No. 44 machine, Kyle Weatherman collided with the front of Deegan’s No. 15 Ford Mustang, which ripped the front bumper off of Deegan’s car and twisted the front bumper components.

Did Deegan think she had any chance to rebound for a top-20 finish after the crash?

“No,” Deegan told TobyChristie.com after the race.

Fortunately, the contact with Weatherman didn’t rip out the car’s alternator and Deegan was able to soldier on. The level of damage that Deegan had to the front of her race car made things incredibly difficult. Not only was the car bottoming out, but the brakes became very touchy.

“Yeah, I had a lot of damage to the front end, to say the least. It definitely made it hard. Struggling with my turn. Getting free into the corner,” Deegan said. “The brakes, all of the duct work was ripped out of it. The brakes, I was locking up the fronts, I was chattering the rears. I adjusted my brake bias — literally, I could move it one notch, and next thing you know, locking up the fronts. Move it to the back just a tick, and the rear is locking up and wheel-hopping into the corner. So it was just trying to salvage what I could with what I had.”

As the race rolled on, Deegan was able to get herself back onto the lead lap with a free pass received on Lap 170. With a little bit of cheer leading on the radio from her crew chief Joe Williams and spotter TJ Majors, Deegan started to turn really competitive lap times, and as a result, started to climb the scoring pylon.

In the end, she would score her second top-20 finish of the season with an 18th-place result. The tenacious effort displayed down the stretch was a defining moment for the California native, who just refused to quit on Saturday night.

After climbing from the wreckage that was her race car, Deegan was all smiles and was laughing and joking with her race team.

“I think moreso why we’re laughing and joking around is that we were in such a deep hole in the beginning after we got turned,” Deegan explained. “I didn’t think we were going to be able to dig ourselves out of the hole. I didn’t think we were going to be able to stay on the lead lap, and be on the lead lap towards the end. The fact that we were able to do that, the guys were pretty happy that we got something out of it. Because towards the beginning after the first Stage, I didn’t think we were going to get much out of this race.”

Deegan wasn’t fully aware of how bad the damage was to the front of her race car until she climbed out and inspected it herself.

“I mean, I was battling with the 51, as I was door-to-door, I was like, ‘Man, he’s got a lot of damage,’ and little did I know mine looked exactly the same,” Deegan laughed. “I didn’t know that we had that much. I knew we had a lot, but it’s definitely a lot more looking on the outside right now.”

While it wasn’t how they had drawn it up, Deegan was able to accomplish the goal set by her AM Racing team going into the day as she maximized her points.

“I mean, I think it’s good just for points. Salvaging points, that’s kind of been the motion we’re in right now. Just trying to get as many points as we possibly can. We kind of go into this one knowing it was going to be a mess at the end, but knowing we were able to get some decent points out of it with how our day started, that’s big for us.”

As Martinsville moves into the rear view mirror, Deegan is excited about the prospects in the windshield as the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.

“Texas should be good for us,” Deegan said. “Joe, my crew chief, has run well there with his other drivers. Texas has been one of my favorite tracks, so we should have a good day there.”

Deegan now heads into next weekend’s race 25th in the championship standings, up three places from where she was following a 31st-place finish at Richmond Raceway. She’ll now look to build momentum at the 1.5-mile speedway in Fort Worth.

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