In a statement to NBC Sports, the 86-year-old Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, said of his grandson’s achievement: “I just knew it was a matter of time until Jagger rose to the top and won at this level. I’m very proud of him. Jagger has worked hard on his racing skills this year and continues to improve and learn.
“Not only is Jagger a good driver but he’s a very good student. I’ve been impressed by both Jagger and Jace (his younger brother) – they continue to work hard and balance their driving with their work in the classroom. They’re outstanding young men on and off the track and I’m truly a very proud grandfather. Jagger and his team earned this win after a successful season and hopefully it’s a building block for the future.”
Hailie Deegan, who started on the pole, overcame an early spin and finished second.
This is Jones’ first season in the series. He had finished runner-up twice, scoring those finishes in his first career series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track in March and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in June.
CONCORD, N.C. — Fourteen years after her racing career ended, Shawna Robinson got to experience a first at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
On a hot September day, the former NASCAR driver arrived on the track’s pit road as one drop in a sea of pink.
Robinson, 54, wore a pink shirt identical to those worn by numerous other women who covered pit road, signifying their status as survivors of breast cancer. They were all there to help paint the track’s pit wall pink ahead of NASCAR’s Roval race weekend.
For Robinson, the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race (Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series’ AC Delco 100 at New Asheville Speedway on June 10, 1988), it was the first time she’d attended the “Paint Pit Wall Pink” event to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Robinson, who once suffered from Stage 3 breast cancer, has been in remission since 2015.
“It’s just an honor to be a part of this,” Robinson told NBC Sports. “You just see the courage of all these survivors and you know the process you go through once you’re diagnosed, it’s a journey.”
October is significant for Robinson not just because of her experience with cancer. In January 2014, two months before her diagnosis, her father-in-law Dale Clark passed way after a short battle with prostate cancer.
“We had just lost (Dale) and the next thing you know, I have the same oncologist and I’m doing chemo in the room that he did, and my mother-in-law’s there with me,” Robinson recalled. “Things just come full circle. It’s been really, really tough on everybody losing Dale and then for me to get through the process and then for (son) Tanner.”
Six months after her last radiation treatment in September 2015, Tanner was diagnosed with testicular cancer just before his 20th birthday. He’s now cancer free and pursuing a career as a professional gamer.
“We were able to catch it early,” Robinson said. “Him going to chemo was probably harder. I went through chemo for three years, he went through it for six months because it was such a different type of treatment.
“Just to see him go through that and the frailness was really, really tough. But he’s cancer free. When I lost my hair, he shaved his head (to give moral support). Little did he know a few years down the road he’d be losing his hair due to chemo.”
Robinson shared a lesson that came to mind seeing her fellow survivors gather at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Life never will be the same again, but you’re fortunate,” she said. “It changes the person who you are and I feel that it makes you a better person. It makes the life that you’ve lived even that more grateful to have another day to live it.”
After not having raced since she failed to qualify for the April 2005 Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Robinson is still finding ways to live within the racing community. And that’s not including being a member of the National Motorsports Appeals panel.
“I think I got part of it from my mother, who was very much into decor, and I grew up as a little girl going to flea markets and antique stores and my dad was the racer,” Robinson said. “Every weekend was at a race track.”
Robinson “dabbled” in design when she took a two-year hiatus from racing in the 90s to have her two children, Tanner and Samantha.
“Really just word of mouth, it just really picked up with, ‘Would you help me do this, would you help me do that?'” Robinson said. “Then I went back into racing in ’99 and then basically got out of it in 2005. (Going back to design work) seemed like the next step to go to.”
Robinson describes her style as “very eclectic,” as she likes to “take old patterns and mix them up. I’m a little mixed up, so I guess that works well for me.”
Anyone with familiar with JR Motorsports’ headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, might have seen her work.
“Still to this day if you see any kind of interviews with the crew or the team it’s on the blocked wall in the back with all those colors,” Robinson said. “I was literally on a scaffolding painting those squares. It’s pretty cool to still see that. I worked very closely with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller). Everybody kind of did their race shops in red, black, silver. He wanted to go a totally different route and we used a lot of earth tones and odd colors. It’s a very homey feel to that shop and it’s a very family feel with JR Motorsports. …
“I created that atmosphere and to see it 10, 15 years later and it’s still standing. A lot of times when you go to a job you did in the beginning or early on and you go back to it and you think ‘Oooh, I could have done this different.’ I don’t feel that way, I feel like it’s really held its beautiful look that it has.”
For Robinson to focus on her new endeavors, she believed she had to “pull the door down on that world” of racing, which saw her make 72 starts in national NASCAR races, become the first woman to win a pole in the Xfinity Series (Atlanta 1994) and be the second woman to compete in the Daytona 500.
And Robinson is clear “You can’t do racing halfway.”
“Any career you want to succeed at, you can’t do it halfway,” she said. “So I really had to dive into (interior design) and just think I had the support and the clientele because of being in the racing world and people have a trust with you. Giving you the key to their house or giving you the opportunity to go in and work with their things.”
The club of woman who have competed in NASCAR is small, but Robinson has high hopes for the latest woman to grab the sport’s spotlight, Hailie Deegan.
Thirty years after Robinson, Deegan became the second woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race last year when she won at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway in the K&N Pro Series West. She’s added two more wins this season.
“She seems like such a confident girl,” Robinson said. “There’s no question she’s a hard driver that’s not afraid to put her nose (in a tight spot) to get to the next spot. I think she’s got a ton of potential. The fact that she’s running with Toyota support and she’s running different K&N races, she can pretty much get into anything and drive it. I think that’s going to be her saving grace.”
Robinson has never met Deegan. If she does, what would she like to talk to her about?
“I hope she knows who I am would be one thing,” Robinson said with a slight laugh, “or who I was.”
Even if Deegan doesn’t know who she is, plenty of people still remember her career.
Robinson said she gets autograph cards in the mail “every day and get people that want things signed or just want to know how I’m doing. I’m happy about all that. They’re still very, very supportive.”
Hailie Deegan joins DGR-Crosley for K&N East Bristol race
Hailie Deegan will compete for DGR-Crosley in Thursday night’s K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the team announced Monday.
Deegan, 18, competes full-time in the K&N West series and has made 12 starts in the East Series the last two years. All her K&N starts have come with Bill McAnally Racing.
This will be her first start for the team co-owned by David Gilliland, who fields two K&N cars and three entries in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
Deegan will drive the No. 54 Toyota with sponsorship from iK9. She’ll have Ty Gibbs and Tanner Gray as teammates.
“It’s awesome that we were able to work with DGR-Crosley on running the K&N East race at Bristol,” Deegan said in a press release. “They have top-notch equipment and people within their organization. Every weekend they are competing for wins, and as a driver, that’s all you want — a chance to win.”
Deegan, who has three K&N West wins, has made two Bristol starts in the East Series. She finished 22nd last year and 16th earlier this season after a wreck.
The Bush’s Beans 150 will air live at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday on fanschoice.tv and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 21 on NBCSN.
Hailie Deegan on Dale Jr. Download: ‘I’m a racer, not a model’
Hailie Deegan is fast on her way to becoming a household name in NASCAR racing. The K&N Series star has won two races this season (plus one in her rookie campaign last year) and her name and talent continue to draw attention in the sport.
The Southern California native appeared on this week’s Dale Jr. Download with Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the show airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN – and showed maturity above her 17 years of age, both as a race car driver and observer of the sport.
One of the biggest surprises during the podcast was when Deegan was asked by Dale Jr. who are some of the drivers she tries to pattern her own racing style.
“Watching a lot of old footage, it’s been your dad,” Deegan told Dale Jr. about his father, Dale Earnhardt. “A lot of it, just watching those old races, I love the aggressive drivers. I like Kyle Busch, I love his driving style. He might not have the most positivity off the track, but I do like his driving style.
“You see him at some of the tracks and just his lines he runs are just crazy, the mad momentum he’s able to build at some of these tracks. Watching him in the Trucks Series just blows my mind. When you think of the heavy hitters like Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, the guys that have been there for a long time, you think they’re the best, you can’t get any better than that, and he goes out there and just whoops them all and you’re like how did he do that? How did he come from all the way in the back to where he’s leading by five seconds?
“It’s just stuff that doesn’t happen, he can do. He’s one guy I look up to where I want to have his driving style.”
The teen driver has not only built her reputation and platform on the race track, but also off-track as well, particularly with a very savvy use of social media that has attracted nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter, where she proclaims “Not your typical 17yr old girl.” She also has 425,000 followers on Instagram and more than 100,000 likes on her Facebook page.
“I love social media,” Deegan said. “I think people in NASCAR don’t use it enough and there’s so much you can do with it. There’s this platform where you don’t need announcers telling the story. You can do it yourself. If you want to state your opinion if somebody’s wrong, you can do it on social media.”
Other highlights that Deegan will cover in today’s Dale Jr. Download on NBCSN:
* On how she wants to be recognized as a race car driver, not just a female driver: “I would use the female card more if I wasn’t winning. I just want to win. I want it all to be on the track. … I take every race like my ride is on the line, like it’s my last. I don’t get sponsors when I finish second. My sponsors aren’t happy when I finish second. They’re happy when I win.”
* Deegan also notes that “In the end, I’m a racer, I’m not a model, obviously. I lost about a foot of my height for that. And in the end, I’m not trying to be one. I’m trying to be a real person. Try to be a racer. You don’t see Jimmie Johnson out here modeling, you don’t see Kevin Harvick modeling, so why should I be if I’m trying to be an upcoming racer trying to make it in this world.”
* Deegan hopes to make her NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut either this year or next – and already has a 2020 race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in her sites: “I really want to race Eldora next year. I don’t want to make the mistake. I feel like I have one shot personally at this and to be a heavy hitter. I want to be the best I possibly can be and not think I should have spent a couple more races or did a couple more tests. I don’t want to have any regrets. When I go, I want to be sure I’m ready. I think Eldora would be a good place to go to next year, for sure.”
Aggression has been the hallmark of Hailie Deegan’s three victories in the K&N Series.
Deegan believes it’s also crucial to any female driver’s NASCAR success.
“A lot of people assume about being a girl that they’re a little more laid back, they’re not as aggressive. They’re still trying to get to the same level of a guys’ aggression,” Deegan told NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen in the latest episode of the “On Her Turf” podcast. “But I think even if you ask other guys, they’ll say I’m an aggressive driver just because I know what it’s going to take to make it. And I see why a lot of these other girls haven’t made it, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes.
“I just want to make sure I do everything right. Because it’s going to take every piece. There’s a reason why there isn’t a ton of girls racing NASCAR. It’s not like there’s no reason why. There’s obviously a reason why. So I just have to do everything right to make sure that I can make it to the top level.”
There have been some Southern California mornings of 100-degree heat when Deegan said she wakes up thinking, “Oh God, I don’t want to run several miles,” but she pushes through because of her goal to become a winner in NASCAR’s top series.
“I think you have to have your priorities straight,” she said. “Are you focusing on looking good at the track or performing at the track? There’s a difference.
“You have to have every single priority straight. Are you there during the week to train? Or there to hang out with friends? There are so many pieces to the puzzle, and you have to be an aggressive personality. There are quite a few girls that just don’t have the aggression in their personality.”
“I feel like I grew up in a very aggressive family, and my dad being from the motocross industry,” Hailie Deegan said. “It’s an aggressive, very tough sport. So that’s where I learned it from him. A lot of other girls don’t have their dads in racing, especially since I came from that motocross scene, it’s a lot more rough and tough. That’s how I was built up.”
She also learned to avoid bonding too much with other drivers.
“You don’t have any friends when you’re on the track,” said Deegan, who turns 18 next month. “Racing is competitive. They’re like frenemies. Everyone is there for a position to make it in the top series. You’re all competing for those positions, and it’s not like everyone will get one.”