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iK9 will back Hailie Deegan in six ARCA starts

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Hailie Deegan has landed iK9 as a supporter for her six scheduled starts in the ARCA Menards Series this season.

Deegan will make her series debut at Toledo Speedway on May 19.

The canine security services and training company will be a primary sponsor of Deegan in the May 31 race at Pocono Raceway and an associate sponsor in the remaining five races.

After Toledo and Pocono, Deegan will compete at Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway in New Market, Minnesota (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana (Oct. 5) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18).

iK9 will make its debut with Deegan ahead of the ARCA races as her primary sponsor in the April 6 K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I’m grateful for this opportunity to build my NASCAR career and I’m extremely proud to represent iK9 along with Toyota, TRD, Monster Energy and Craftsman,” Deegan said in a press release. “Partnerships are key to earning these kinds of opportunities, and iK9’s mission appeals to who I want to be as a racer and also as a person.”

Deegan competes full-time in the K&N Pro Series West. She won the season-opener in Las Vegas on a last-lap pass to earn her second career victory.

The next K&N West race is March 30 at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, California.

iK9 has been aggressive in its sponsorship in NASCAR so far this season. It serves as a primary sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota in the Xfinity Series and sponsored last weekend’s Xfinity race at ISM Raceway.

 

Ryan: It’s a shame the story of Captain Kirk didn’t get its due

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
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Why don’t the guys who make the critical race-winning calls ever get the calls to the shrine that validates their race-winning careers?

That’s the question that the NASCAR Hall of Fame awkwardly is facing yet again with the nomination process for its 11th class.

Kirk Shelmerdine, the team-building genius who guided Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet to four championships before mysteriously disappearing from the NASCAR limelight, inexplicably has fallen off the nominees list for the 2020 induction ceremony.

It was only last year that Shelmerdine had appeared on the ballot for the first time.

Now he’s gone, and it’s reasonable to ask if he ever will return for consideration given some of the names that have supplanted him.

There was never any doubt about three-time champion Tony Stewart being ushered directly into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

But there undeniably are greater questions about the other five new nominees — Sam Ard, Neil Bonnett, Marvin Panch, Jim Paschal and Red Vogt. They all are deserving of consideration … but are they more deserving than Shelmerdine?

Shelmerdine has nearly twice as many wins (46) as a crew chief in NASCAR’s premier Cup series as any of those candidates.

He changed front tires and led the famous Flying Aces pit crew that was the best in NASCAR for several seasons.

He was a key cog during many of the greatest years ever posted by seven-time champion and inaugural Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt.

Shelmerdine is a living and breathing integral connection to the legacy of “The Intimidator,” which makes it even more indefensible that his candidacy has been suspended without explanation.

It’s patently ridiculous, and it’s a disturbing pattern that has emerged over the years since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Kirk Shelmerdine worked as a crew chief for Richard Childress Racing from 1982-92. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

Crew chiefs get no respect when it comes to being considered for legendary status, never mind actually being enshrined.

Of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 50 inductees, there are only four who have at least 50 races as Cup crew chiefs (Dale Inman, Glen Wood, Bud Moore and Ray Evernham). And of that group, only Inman and Evernham could be considered true crew chiefs.

Between Inman, Moore, Evernham, Leonard Wood, Robert Yates and Maurice Petty, the representative list of crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics in the NASCAR Hall of Fame is painfully short, and the number of slights is unfortunately long.

–Dale Inman was elected to the third class of the Hall of Fame with 78% of the vote … two years after he inexplicably was left off the ballot for the inaugural class – a 25-person list with no crew chiefs.

–Ray Evernham, who was voted the greatest crew chief of all time 13 years ago, didn’t appear on the ballot until the 2016 class and wasn’t elected until 2018.

–Smokey Yunick and Banjo Matthews, two icons generally regarded among the finest mechanics of their generation, have yet to be recognized.

In the case of Yunick, the larger-than-life personality whose “Best Damn Garage in Town” is the stuff of Daytona Beach legend and Hollywood lore, there is a realistic fear he never will be nominated because of his endless wars with NASCAR executives and officials over the rulebook.

There were some other curious omissions on the 2020 ballot in the Landmark Award category, where racing pioneer Janet Guthrie and late Motor Racing Network legend Barney Hall got booted.

As Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer noted, the optics are poor to have Guthrie suddenly excluded with so much cultural focus on female equality and particularly given NASCAR’s persistent efforts to promote diversity (and rising stars such as Hailie Deegan).

The process for building the nomination list, though, isn’t necessarily wrong.

According to those involved in culling the nominees, the NASCAR Hall of Fame actually has been more proactive in pushing for a broader spectrum of nominees by providing more information for prospective candidates in several categories.

Much like the Hall of Fame vote, the nomination discussion is held in confidence, and the voting is done by secret ballot and tabulated by an accounting firm. As Winston Kelley explained Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR, it wasn’t as if someone were advocating for the exclusion of Guthrie, Hall and Shelmerdine.

The names disappeared from consideration through an honestly conducted winnowing. Another process might produce the same results.

The question that must be answered is why the results keep being returned with crew chiefs, engine builders and mechanics being snubbed.

If the argument is that they somehow aren’t personalities, that’s absurd, too.

Yunick’s autobiography probably could be optioned as a screenplay. Evernham has transitioned into a post-crew chief/team owner career as a highly successful TV analyst. Inman still is often at Richard Petty’s side weekly in the Cup garage, cracking hilarious stories about yesteryear.

Kirk Shelmerdine speaks during a 2010 news conference about pit stops at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. (HHP/Harold Hinson)

Shelmerdine has one of the greatest backstories in NASCAR.

How many people can say they competed in The Great American Race first as a crew chief and then as a driver (Shelmerdine finished 20th in the 2006 Daytona 500)?

At the top of his game as Earnhardt’s crew chief, a 34-year-old Shelmerdine walked away from Richard Childress Racing after the 1992 season to start a driving career, which he toiled through for 15 years with limited success racing his own team in ARCA, trucks, Xfinity and Cup.

Though Shelmerdine was a straight-talking Delaware native with an iconoclastic streak that made him a great in calling and managing races, the move still stunned NASCAR. Team owner Richard Childress said Shelmerdine simply was “burned out.”

Robin Pemberton, a rival crew chief before his run as NASCAR executive, once said Shelmerdine was “a pretty sharp fella who got out of the sport a little too early. He still had a lot to offer. It was a big shock. I think everyone was confused as to the reasons he left. I’m not so sure anybody knows.”

When asked by the Richmond Times-Dispatch 16 years ago (while trying to make the 2003 Daytona 500 with Junie Donlavey) why he quit, Shelmerdine said, “It gets to the point that you don’t care about winning, you just can’t stand to see the other (expletives) win.” The reporter who asked the question was so taken aback by the answer, he couldn’t even muster a proper follow-up.

Maybe the rest of Shelmerdine’s story finally might be told during a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech that’s long overdue.

Too bad we’ll have to wait at least another year to hear it.

Analyzing the attention on Hailie Deegan after her breakthrough wins

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Hailie Deegan’s victory in the K&N West Series season opener at Las Vegas was only the beginning for the teenager who could be emerging as a NASCAR star.

After the big win (which will be aired on replay at 6 p.m. ET today on NBCSN), Deegan was featured on FS1’s Xfinity practice coverage Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She drove the pace car at the start of Saturday’s Xfinity race. She also announced a six-race deal Friday to race in the ARCA Series with Venturini Motorsports.

MORE: Hailie Deegan: I put my helmet on the same way everyone else does

During the latest NASCAR America Splash & Go (video above), NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Jarrett said Deegan, who became the first female to win in K&N last year, should take advantage of the exposure from her success.

“You have so many more opportunities in this day and time for these young people and drivers and aspiring Cup drivers,” Jarrett said. “I think she has all the tools to make it happen. You can do and say all the things you want, but if you aren’t making things happen on the track, I think people look at and say, ‘That’s just noise.’ But she’s making noise on the track. She’s done a great of making passes and doing things at the right time. She’s really maximizing everything on the track and off.”

Deegan’s victories come as NASCAR is in a transitory era of trying to promote its next generation of stars. Last year, that was met with some resistance from Cup veterans, particularly when there weren’t many wins by the youthful brigade for several months after Austin Dillon‘s Daytona 500 victory (Erik Jones and Chase Elliott broke through during the summer).

“There’s nothing wrong with speculation, now how far you take before it’s more than what people want, you have to have that success,” Jarrett said. “In the case of the young drivers in the Cup Series, they’re at the top level going against veterans, and it kind of backfired last year.

“In the case of Hailie Deegan, I think right now she’s getting the right type of exposure. She throws in just enough wins and shows the talent and ambition to move forward and maximize this.”

Deegan’s slate with Venturini (which also includes the K&N East race Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway) will include visits to Pocono Raceway and Kansas Speedway, providing the superspeedway experience she will need to advance.

“What I see in the schedule is she’s getting high-profile races along with difficult tracks,” Jarrett said. “That’s really important to understand that. I like she’s in good equipment in the K&N Series and Venturini has good stuff in ARCA. Especially at difficult racetracks, you don’t want a young driver discouraged. She can learn a lot and maximize her exposure.”

NASCAR America Splash & Go videos are available every Tuesday, you can watch the videos at http://www.nbcsports.com/nascar or by subscribing to the NBC Motorsports’ YouTube channel.

Hailie Deegan to run six ARCA races this season

Nigel Kinrade Photography for NASCAR
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Hailie Deegan, coming off her last-lap pass to win Thursday night’s K&N Pro Series West race, announced that she will drive six ARCA races and one K&N Series race for Venturini Motorsports.

The 17-year-old Toyota Racing Development driver will make her ARCA debut May 19 at Toledo Speedway. She’ll also compete in ARCA races at Pocono Raceway (May 31), Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway (Oct. 5) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18). She will drive for Venturini Motorsports in the K&N Pro Series East race Aug. 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

She will have sponsorship from Monster Energy, Craftsman and iK9.

MORE: Hailie Deegan: I put my helmet on the same way everyone else does

So will this ARCA deal lead to a full-time effort in that series next year?

“I think it honestly depends on how this year goes with my K&N Series,” Deegan said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I think if we get that championship, yes, I would want to move up and make that step into a bigger series after we accomplish everything we can in this series. That’s something I really wanted to do with my career is win at every level I’m at before I move up. I think this year in the ARCA Series, I just want to go out there, be able to run in the top five, go out there and maybe get a win.”

Deegan’s win Thursday was her second career K&N Pro Series  West victory. She won last year at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway.

“I wanted to come into this year to really show everyone that we’re going to be competitive during this K&N West season, that I’m going for a championship, that we’re not playing games,” she said. “We’re here to win races.”

Saturday, Deegan will drive the pace car for the Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hailie Deegan scores 2nd career K&N Pro Series West win with last-lap pass

Nigel Kinrade Photography for NASCAR
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Hailie Deegan slipped underneath the car of Jagger Jones on the final lap to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season-opening race late Thursday night at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was the only lap the 17-year-old Deegan led. The victory is her second career win in the series. Deegan won her first career series race last September with a last-lap pass at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway. She is the only woman to win a K&N Pro Series West race.

NBCSN will air the race at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday (March 5).

MORE: Hailie Deegan: I put my helmet on the same way everyone else does

MORE: Jagger Jones set to make own racing mark in K&N debut

Jones, the grandson of famed racer Parnelli Jones, was seeking the win in his first career start. Jones led entering the final lap but was pinched by the lapped car of Kenny Bumbera entering Turn 1. That allowed Deegan to close and get underneath Jones’ car and make the winning pass off Turn 2. Jones charged into Turn 3 and hit Deegan’s car in the back but she held on to win.

 

“I thought … (Jones) is so far away, I was thinking something good is going to have to happen for me to win this race,” Deegan told NASCAR Home Tracks after the race. “He slowly started coming back, slowly starting coming back, but I’m like it’s not enough, we’re not going to catch him by the end.

“The lappers started coming up, and I was like, ‘OK, they’re helping us, they’re helping us.’ They started pulling him back, pulling him back, pulling him back. I was like, man, watch this come down to the last lap again. I’m not coming home in second. We did that last year. I ain’t going to do that again.

“I had to do something to make the move. So I shoved my nose in there, squiggled my way through that corner and just parked around the bottom of (Turns) 3 and 4 and got it done.”

Jones finished second in the 100-lap race. Joey Tanner placed third.

Jones told NASCAR Home Tracks he didn’t have a problem with Deegan’s move.

“Oh I think her move was fine,” Jones said. “I mean she didn’t really do anything too bad. It’s just the lapped car cut me off in front. It just pushed me up the track. Once that all happened she had a whole lane to herself. It was kind of given to her, which is unfortunate on the last lap. It just sucks sometimes.”

The next K&N Pro Series West race will be March 30 at Irwindale (California) Speedway.