Hailie Deegan won her second NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race of the season Saturday night after contact with leader and teammate Derek Kraus on the last lap.
Deegan led on the overtime restart and chose the bottom lane. Kraus restarted on the inside of the second row. On the restart, Kraus got underneath Deegan in Turn 1 and took the lead. Running second on the last lap, Deegan went under Kraus in Turn 3. They made contact. Kraus spun. Deegan scored her third career series win.
Deegan explained her move afterward:
“On the restart, (Jagger Jones, who was second) I thought that was who was going to run me hard. So I picked the bottom when I was normally picking the top. I went into that corner, went in hard, so I was already kind of on the edge. I was not expecting my teammate (Kraus) with a broke sway-bar to take a swing at me like that.
“I thought he was going to play cautious. In the end, I told you guys last week, if you take a swing at me, I’m going to take a swing at you back. It was hard race, and I don’t want to run my teammate like that, but I also did not expect him to race me like that. Hard racing is hard racing. You want to race me hard, I’m going to race you hard. That was some fun racing, I’ll have to admit.”
Rising NASCAR K&N Pro Series star Hailie Deegan will take the next step on her fast track up the racing ladder this weekend, making her ARCA Menards Series debut in Sunday’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Toledo Speedway in Ohio.
It will be the 17-year-old Deegan’s first of six scheduled ARCA race starts this season for Venturini Motorsports, and extends her current racing relationship with Toyota Racing Development. She will also continue her full-time campaign in the K&N Pro Series. She’s currently ranked fourth in the K&N Pro Series West class, 23 points out of first place.
“I’m super excited for this opportunity especially coming to a short track for my first ARCA race,” Deegan said in a media release. “I think this first race is all about finding out where I stack up against the field and find out where I’m at compared to everyone else. Once we get a baseline, I think we’ll definitely start to work up from there and get better finishes.
“But first things first, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m coming here to learn a lot and do as much as I can and get some good results. For now, my goal is to learn as much as I can and shoot for top-five finishes.”
The Temecula, California resident became the first female to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series race in over 30 years. Earlier this season, she earned her second K&N win at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Deegan’s other ARCA starts this year will be Pocono Raceway (May 31), Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway (October 5) and Kansas Speedway (October 18).
Jagger Jones is going to spend Spring Break not in Daytona Beach or Fort Lauderdale – but he’ll be seeing a lot of sand nonetheless.
About 1,300 miles worth.
The 16-year-old rookie NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver will be taking part in his second consecutive National Off-Road Racing Association 1000 off-road race (also known as the Mexican 1000) from April 28 – May 2 in Baja California, Mexico.
Sitting alongside Jones and splitting driving duties will be legendary drag racer Don “Snake” Prudhomme, who will also be competing in his second Mexican 1000.
“It’s not an easy race, for sure,” Jones told NBC Sports. “It’s long, it’s five days, it’s hot, the end of April and the start of May. Don really liked being in last year’s race, but I could tell he was unsure if he was up to do it again. Then my dad and I threw out the deal where we split the race and Don was on-board with that. We both just jumped on that idea.”
While other teenagers may be intimidated to be paired with one of the most legendary names in motorsports, Jones isn’t. He’s used to being around iconic racers, most notably his grandfather, Parnelli Jones. And his father, P.J., is not only a noted racer himself, he also built the Polaris off-road buggy that his son and Prudhomme will drive in the 1000.
“It’s really cool to be able to do a race with the one and only Snake, who has been such a legend in the drag racing community,” Jones said. “I’m only 16 years old, so I think it’s pretty awesome.
“I’ve always been around the off-road scene and watched my dad do a lot of races off-road. I grew up around Robby Gordon and off-road places like Parker (Arizona), where we always go there every year and go camping. I’ve always wanted to do off-road racing. My brother and I both enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of different than the pavement stuff. It’s really fun when you’re sideways and stuff.”
Prudhomme is looking forward to racing with Jagger.
“Doing it with Jagger, he’s a young, real aggressive driver and he’s really fast,” Prudhomme said. “I couldn’t think of a better kid to be my co-driver.”
Jones is able to take part in the Mexican 1000 because the K&N Series West is on a six-week hiatus, his next race not being until May 11 in Tucson.
He’s done well in his first two K&N races, finishing runner-up in his series debut at Las Vegas (was knocked out of the lead on the final lap) and fourth at Irwindale Speedway.
Jones sits tied for third in the K&N West standings, three points behind series frontrunner Hailie Deegan.
“I think we’ve had a great start to the season,” Jones said. “It was definitely a bit of a learning curve, but … so far for a rookie season, I don’t think it’s too bad of a start.”
Jones competed in last year’s Mexican 1000 with younger brother Jace. The pair were in the lead when the transmission on their off-road buggy failed, ending their hopes of a win (their father won in another class in the same race). Prudhomme finished 95th in a field of more than 150 drivers in the same event.
Much like Prudhomme feels he has unfinished business in Baja, Jones feels the same way. Now paired with the “Snake,” Jagger is ready to go for the win.
“We definitely have a shot at winning,” Jones said. “It’s like an endurance race. First, you have to finish to win. That’s probably going to be our biggest goal.
“We want to do good, but if we can just finish, I think we’ll wind up in a good place. If we finish, anything else is a bonus. To win would be awesome. My dad won last year, so if we could follow that up this year, it’d be super cool.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.