The first day of Hailie Deegan’s foray into sports car racing was one with mixed results.
Deegan and teammate, NASCAR Xfinity driver Chase Briscoe, finished 43rd of 51 teams that were entered in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway.
Deegan ran as high as 15th before the car experienced mechanical issues roughly three hours into the four-hour event, and it was brought in to be worked on for the remaining time.
Deegan and Briscoe were in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford GT4, which ran a total of 86 laps. One other NASCAR driver, Xfinity pilot Austin Cindric, was teamed with Seb Priaulx in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford Mustang GT4, and together they finished 45th, completing 78 laps.
One other name of note was IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who finished 28th (completed 107 laps).
The fastest team in the field was Dylan Murry, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Jim Cox, who collectively ran the entire 110 laps.
While her team continued to work on the car in the garage, Deegan visited the infield media center to speak about her first race experience in an IMSA sports car.
“I feel like I just gained a lot of experience,” Deegan said. “I’m here to gain experience after that three-day road test, coming here and practicing for two days.
“I just feel like I know a lot more about racing than I did before. And that’s why I’m here and supposed to be doing.”
The biggest challenge, Deegan said, was the large number of cars she had to compete against.
“The traffic is a little difficult to deal with; it’s not bad, though,” Deegan said. “It makes it fun. It makes it interesting. You constantly have to be on your toes.
“What I like about sports car racing is how many of the points you have to remember in your head. You get a little distracted for a second, and the next thing you know, you overdrive the corner that kind of laps into the next corner.
“So there’s constantly so much going on, you have to be on top of your game.”
While she would have liked to have more time on track had it not been for the mechanical issue, Deegan was philosophical about how the day played out.
“I’m not mad, I’m gaining experience,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”