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Kevin Harvick says Hailie Deegan is K&N West driver with ‘most potential’

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Kevin Harvick called out Hailie Deegan Friday morning.

But the words from the 2014 Cup champion were in praise of the 16-year-old K&N Pro Series West driver.

Harvick was fresh off competing in the K&N West season-opener Thursday night at Kern County Raceway in his hometown of Bakersfield, California. Among his 22 competitors was Deegan, who was making her first start in the series driving for Bill McAnally Racing.

When asked Friday at Auto Club Speedway about what talent he discovered in the 175-lap race, Harvick didn’t mention 16-year-old race winner Derek Kraus.

Deegan, the daughter of X-Games athlete Brian Deegan, was Harvick’s answer.

“If I had to pick one person to say, ‘Alright, that’s the person KHI (Harvick’s sports and celebrity-marketing agency) would want to represent and has the most potential,’ it would probably be Hailie Deegan,” Harvick said. “She did really, really well.”

In just her second K&N start (she has one in the K&N East), Deegan started eighth and finished seventh. Harvick, who led 132 of 175 laps from the pole, got knocked back in the field late in the race and briefly ran around Deegan.

“Obviously, they have I would call it a unique racing heritage within their family with Brian,” Harvick said. “I got to race with her a little bit there at the end of the race. She did a great job in the car. I think as far as potential and reach and racing knowledge and getting in the car as young as she is, that would be the one I would pluck out of the series and say that’s the one we want to be a part of. Because she has a lot of potential and already has some racing experience in multiple vehicles. That was fun to see.”

Deegan’s father has won the most Freestyle Motocross medals in X Games history with 10. He has multiple championships in the Lucas Oil Pro 2 and Lucas Oil Pro Lite series.

Deegan began off-road racing when she was 8 and was the first female to win a race and a championship in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.

In 2015, she was the Modified Kart Regional Champion and the next year was the Modified Kart National Champion as well as the Driver of the Year. In 2017, she was the first female in the Pro Lite division of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series to have multiple podiums in her rookie year.

Deegan took part in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in 2016 and won the 2017 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award.

Anyone that plays the 2017 video game “NASCAR Heat 2” can play as Deegan in the Cup Series.

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Friday 5: How soon until the next female driver arrives in Cup?

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Danica Patrick’s departure after the Daytona 500 (provided she secures a ride for that race) will leave NASCAR without a female driver in its top series.

It could be years before the next female driver arrives in Cup.

Only two of the 114 drivers who attempted to qualify for an Xfinity race last year were female — Angela Ruch ran four races and Jennifer Jo Cob ran one. Cobb was the only female driver among 103 who attempted to qualify for a Camping World Truck Series race last season.

The last four NASCAR Next classes — which spotlights talented young competitors — featured four female drivers among the 44 racers selected. Those female drivers chosen: Kenzie Ruston (2014-15 class), Nicole Behar (2015-16), Julia Landauer (2016-17) and Hailie Deegan (2017-18).

The 16-year-old Deegan will run the K&N West Pro Series schedule for Bill MacAnally Racing, which has won the past three K&N West titles.

Landauer finished seventh in the points last year in the K&N West Series (after placing fourth in 2016) and Behar was eighth in her second full-time season in that series.

In ARCA, Natalie Decker will run the full season with Venturini Motorsports. She stands to become the fifth female in modern-day ARCA history to compete for a driver’s title, joining Shawna Robinson (2000), Christi Passmore (2003-04), Milka Duno (2013) and Sarah Cornett-Ching (2015).

Former champion crew chief Ray Evernham understands the challenges female drivers face. His wife, Erin, competed in 10 Xfinity races from 2005-06 and 29 Camping World Truck races between 2005-08.

“I think that we’ve got to keep providing opportunities for girls to get that experience,’’ said Evernham, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 19.

“Now with the technology of the cars, the way they’re doing the setups, things like that, it will make it a little bit easier for newer people to come in. But we’ve just got to continue to provide an opportunity or a path for ladies to get experience.

Just as important will be how well they’ll handle the scrutiny.

“I know it stinks that so many people are so critical of lady drivers, much more critical than they are of a male driver of the same performance,’’ Evernham said. “Each time one of those girls weathers that storm, gets a little bit further down the road, gets some credibility, it gets a lady closer to Victory Lane in NASCAR.’’

NASCAR lists 16 women who have competed in at least one Cup race from Louise Smith, Sara Christian and Ethel Mobley in 1949 to Patrick. Patrick’s 190 career Cup starts are more than the other 15 women combined. Janet Guthrie was next with 33 starts between 1976-80 and followed by Smith with 11 starts from 1949-52 and Robinson, who had eight starts from 2001-02.

Patrick and Robinson are the only females to run a Cup race since 1990.

NASCAR lists 22 females having competed in the Xfinity Series. Patty Moise started 133 races, more than any other driver.  Patrick and Robinson are next with 61 starts each, followed by Johanna Long (42 starts) and Jennifer Jo Cobb (29 starts).

2. “The Great American Race”

The phrase has long been used as the nickname for the Daytona 500, but where did it originate?

Australia.

True story.

Let Ken Squier, who will be among the five men inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 19, explain how he came up with the phrase for the race.

“Well, (Bill) France Sr. had me (in Daytona) from the ’60s.  Daytona always stood out separately, individually, for one thing, the time of year, because most race tracks in America were closed. 

“It was the gathering of the tribes in Daytona Beach, which went all the way back to the turn of the century, when Henry Ford, the Chevrolet brothers, all of that tribe went down there.  They raced down that hard‑packed beach. That never stopped.  One way or another, they continued to go down there in the month of February and toast a few of their friends from the past and turn some wheels.

“That spirit of Daytona is more prevalent than any other when you talk about tracks and parts of the country. In my mind, it needed something that set it aside. Indianapolis was always the greatest spectacle in sports. Indeed, it was.

“But what was Daytona? Well, it was All‑American stock cars in those days, and pretty much the neighbors sounded like your neighbors, particularly if you came from a small town. What would come to mind? I fooled around with that for a long time.

“I was in Australia doing a show. They had a great race over there. It was a long one, it was a dinger, and it was a national holiday. On the way home, I thought, God, that’s what Daytona is. It’s ‘The Great American Race.’

“I got chewed up pretty good about that. Hadn’t I ever heard of Indy? I sure as the dickens had. This was coming from a different place. Sure enough in 1959, when those three cars came across wheel‑to‑wheel at the end of 500 miles, that was The Great American Race.’’

3. Revamped pit stops

Martin Truex Jr. was asked this week about his thoughts on the changes to pit road with five people going over the wall to service the car instead of six this season.

Truex had an interesting take on what pit crew position might grow in importance with the change.

“I think there’s a lot of question marks from all teams, and I know there’s a lot of talk throughout teams and in the industry of how much different it is,’’ he said during a break in the Goodyear tire test at Texas Motor Speedway. “Everybody is going to think they have a handle on it and then somebody is going to do it different on pit road and whip everybody’s butt in Daytona, so then you’re going to have to re-learn everything and try and figure it out.

“From what I understand, it’s been really difficult. A lot of the weight falls on the jackman as far as making the stops go fast and when all that pressure gets put on one position it makes that one position really important and really different than it’s been in the past.’’

4. Las Vegas test

NASCAR has an organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. That means that one team per organization is permitted at the test.

Among those scheduled to test are William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing).

5. January racing

While the return of NASCAR can’t come soon enough for many, did you know the last time the Cup Series raced in January was 1981? Bobby Allison won at Riverside, California. That was the season-opening race and the Daytona 500 followed. Riverside opened the Cup season from 1970-81.

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NASCAR Next’s Hailie Deegan to race in K&N West for Bill McAnally Racing

Bill McAnally Racing
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Hailie Deegan, the only female member of the current NASCAR Next class and daughter of X-Games athlete Brian Deegan, will compete in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series West this season for Bill McAnally Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

Deegan, 16, earned the ride after taking part in a series of test sessions with the team and Toyota late in 2017.

Deegan will drive the No. 19 Mobil 1 / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota and joins teammates Cole Rouse and the returning Derek Kraus.

Todd Gilliland, who won the last two K&N West titles for the team, will compete in the Camping World Truck Series.

Deegan is the only announced female driver for the series this year after two, Julia Landauer and Nicole Behar, competed in it last year. They finished the season seventh and eighth.

The native of Temecula, California, also will race in select K&N East events.

“I’m really excited,” Deegan said in a press release. “This is the best team and equipment in the series. BMR has been great to work with. I look forward to racing at a high level on the East and West Coasts with the top team. We are ready to put in the work to continue being a serious competitor.

“It will be exciting to be part of the K&N Series. It’s been a great building ground for a lot of successful NASCAR drivers. It’s a big step.”

On her Twitter profile, Deegan declares, “I want to follow in the footsteps of my Dad.”

Brian Deegan has won the most Freestyle Motocross medals in X Games history with 10. He has multiple championships in the Lucas Oil Pro 2 and Lucas Oil Pro Lite series.

Hailie Deegan began off-road racing when she was 8 and became the first female to win a race and a championship in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.

In 2015, she was the Modified Kart Regional Champion and the next year was the Modified Kart National Champion as well as the Driver of the Year. In 2017, she was the first female in the Pro Lite division of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Series to have multiple podiums in her rookie year.

Deegan took part in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity combine in 2016 and won the 2017 NASCAR Diversity Young Racer award.

She will seek to become the first woman to win a K&N title and a major NASCAR championship. If she does, it would give Bill McAnally Racing its fourth consecutive K&N West title and ninth overall.

“She’s a very talented driver, who brings with her a lot of energy and excitement,” McAnally said in a press release. “We look forward to being a big part of Hailie’s development as she takes this next step in her racing career. We anticipate great things ahead for everybody, including our partners and fans.”

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NASCAR Next Class for 2017-18 chosen

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Nine drivers have been selected to the 2017-18 NASCAR Next Class.

The latest class includes three series champions and the 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-America Series Rookie of the Year.

Alumni of the program, which is in its seventh year, include Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez.

The selection process includes input from industry executives, NASCAR Cup Drivers Council and media members. Drivers must be between the ages of 15-25 and show potential on and off the track to reach the Cup Series.

Of the nine selected, Harrison Burton, Ty Majeski and Todd Gilliland were also members of the 2016-17 class.

The 2017-18 class includes:

Harrison Burton (Photo: Jared Tilton/Getty)

Harrison Burton – In his second year competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 16-year-old from Huntersville, North Carolina, has earned wins at Bristol Motor Speedway and Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. The son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver and current NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton also took home the pole award at Bristol for the second consecutive year.

Hailie Deegan – The 15-year-old Temecula, California, native has made a name for herself in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. Last year the daughter of FMX legend Brian Deegan became the first female to reach the podium in the series’ history, was the 2016 Modified Kart champion in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and was named the Lucas Oil Off Road Driver of the Year.

Todd Gilliland – The son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver David Gilliland has made quite a name for himself in the sport’s history books. The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, has 12 wins in 30 K&N Pro Series starts and became the youngest champion in NASCAR national or touring series history last year when he took home the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.

Chase Cabre (Photo: Bob Leverone/Getty Images)

Chase Cabre – In his rookie season competing for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the 20-year-old Tampa, Florida, native captured his first two pole awards in the twin features at South Boston Speedway and also earned his best career finish (fourth) at the Virginia short track.

Riley HerbstThe 18-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada, driver is coming off a successful rookie season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. In 14 starts last year, he compiled seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Cayden LapcevichOnly the third Canadian-born driver to be chosen for the program, the 17-year-old from Grimsby, Ontario, won three times in 2016 en route to becoming the youngest NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion, and briefly held the title as the youngest NASCAR champion before being dethroned by Gilliland. Lapcevich is the first driver in Pinty’s Series history to earn both the Josten Rookie of the Year honor and the series title in the same year. 

Ty Majeski – A Roush Fenway development driver and one of the country’s top Super Late Model drivers, the 22-year-old Seymour, Wisconsin native kicked off his 2016 winning the Super Late Model championship at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. He continued his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season with a third-place finish in the national standings on the strength of 14 wins and 21 top-fives in 26 starts. He will make his Xfinity Series debut June 24 at Iowa Speedway.

Chase Purdy (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty)

Chase Purdy – The 2016 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rookie of the Year made a splash last year when he took home both the rookie of the year and track championship at South Carolina’s Greenville Pickens Speedway in NASCAR’s weekly series. The 17-year-old from Meridian, Mississippi, is chasing another rookie title this year, competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

Zane SmithSmith, 17, from Huntington Beach, California, broke onto the national scene in 2015 when he won the Super Late Model championship at New Smyrna’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. He capped the season with a runner-up finish to Cup Series driver Chase Elliott in the Snowball Derby.