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Hailie Deegan looking forward to being a ‘focus’ of attention at Ford

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CONCORD, N.C. — Hailie Deegan‘s future with Ford started in style.

The 18-year-old began the next chapter of her career Tuesday at the Ford Performance Technical Center by slowly piloting a blue Ford Shelby 350 through a set of dark curtains before taking questions from the media.

That followed a hype video showing Deegan doing donuts in another Ford car.

Hailie Deegan emerges from a Ford Shelby 350 as part of her introduction as a member of Ford’s driver development program. (Photo by Daniel McFadin)

The theatrics on her behalf are one of the reasons why, after a few years with Toyota, she’ll be be spending “a lot of birthdays” as a Ford development driver.

But it mostly came down to there not being enough rides for her in Toyota’s stable to properly propel her up the ladder.

“At the end of the day, Toyota, they introduced me to the NASCAR world … they pushed me into it, they gave me a really good base and that’s something I’m super thankful for,” Deegan said. “But at the end of the day, there’s so many Toyota drivers and there’s not many seats. I think we made the best decision for my career long-term.”

Deegan joins a development program that boasts Chase Briscoe as its founding driver.

“There’s going to be more of a focus,” Deegan said. “That’s something I was super adamant about. I want to be focused on, I want to have the attention over here to be a better driver and get developed and that’s something that stood out to me and I think that’s going to help my career.”

Ford recently entered a partnership with the David Gilliland co-owned DGR-Crosley that will add to its efforts.

A three-time winner on what’s now the ARCA Menards Series West, Deegan will compete full-time with DGR-Crosley in the ARCA Menards Series while also competing in select IMSA races, beginning with the Jan. 24 Michelin Pilot Challenge endurance race at Daytona International Speedway.

The looming ARCA season won’t be Deegan’s first interaction with DGR-Crosley. She competed in one ARCA Menards Series East race with the team this year at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I got used to the team, I got to feel everyone out, see what I liked, didn’t like and there was a lot of things that I liked about them,” Deegan said. “I saw how hard their work ethic was. I really like how David, he was a racer. He understands it. He has a son (Todd Gilliland) that races, he knows the game of trying to build your kid into the ranks of NASCAR and running a team at the same time while still being a racer. That’s something I think is a really good combo that’s just going to help his team get better and better. Especially with how much Ford is supporting them, getting behind them.

“The resources they’re giving them is insane.”

Among those resources now at her disposal is Ford’s “marketing push.”

“That’s something I didn’t really have in the past with the team I was with and the manufacturer, that’s something (Ford wants) to push more,” Deegan said. “Push more stuff that’s away from racing, that’s ‘OK, let’s gets you in a Mustang, lets get you in a truck and let’s do some cool videos and stuff like that’ and that’s something I’m big into. I love social media. I love doing stuff like that and that’s definitely a push they want to connect us with.”

All this is work towards one goal: reaching the NASCAR Cup Series.

Both Deegan and Ford Performance Motorsports’ global director, Mark Rushbrook, preached the importance of Deegan moving up each step on the stock car racing ladder when she’s ready.

“We want to make sure, and Hailie wants to make sure, her team wants to make sure, she progresses to those levels when she’s ready to ensure success at each step,” Rushbrook said.

While Ford didn’t announce an expected plan for her progression, Deegan’s father, action sports star Brian Deegan, hopes the opportunity arises for her to “dabble” in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at some point this year.

“I think she needs that,” Brian Deegan said. “She wants to race Eldora for sure, just because it’s a dirt race.”

He even mapped out the ideal structure for his daughter over the next few years.

“It would be ARCA (in 2020), 2021 trucks, 2022 trucks, 23′, 24′ (in) Xfinity is kind of what we’re hoping and laying out, is kind of our goal for her to have that path and then get to Cup,” Brian Deegan said. “By then I think she should have enough experience on everything to be ready, to be competitive.”

Hailie Deegan admitted it’s been difficult to see her fellow competitors from the ARCA East and West Series get a shot at the Truck Series before she does.

“It’s been really hard, just going to ISM (Raceway) at Phoenix (in November,)” she said. “It was so hard for me because my teammate (Derek Kraus at Bill McAnally Racing), he was racing in the truck race and I was sitting there on pit road and I was like, ‘Man, if he can do it, I want to do it.’ Seeing all my friends reach trucks, that’s something hard for me to kind of hold back on, ‘Ok let’s race ARCA, let’s gain experience, let’s get better before I go there.'”

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Hailie Deegan is Ford’s newest development driver

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ford Performance Motorsports revealed Hailie Deegan as its newest development driver Tuesday at its Technical Center, with her joining Chase Briscoe in the program.

Deegan will compete in multiple series in 2020, including the full ARCA Menards Series season with DGR-Crosley driving the No. 4 Ford and select events in the Mustang GT4 with Multimatic Motorsports in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Neither Deegan or Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance Motorsports global director, would say how long her deal was, but Deegan said she’s be with Ford for “a lot of birthdays.”

At the unveiling, Deegan said all of her funding is focused on the ARCA Series, but if the opportunity to race in other series comes up this year, they will pursue it.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

“I could not be more excited to join Ford Performance and DGR-Crosley,” Deegan said in a press release. “It became clear quickly that I align with the Ford Performance vision of driver development and our shared drive to win.  It is also extra special to get to race with Ford, a family company, that already had ties to my family. Growing up watching my dad race a Ford, and now to be able to do the same thing is very cool.

“It’s also important to me to be teamed up with a hardworking group such as DGR with like minded vision and goals. We are all committed to work as hard as it takes to finish on top.  I look forward to the upcoming season and learning as much as possible to get me closer to accomplishing my goals of winning races.”

Deegan, 18, will be leaving the vaunted Toyota Racing Development pipeline, which has helped groom Erik Jones and Christopher Bell for NASCAR’s premier series. But with Toyota’s Cup and Xfinity rides mostly filled for the foreseeable future, Ford’s larger team lineup might offer Deegan a better path for accelerating through NASCAR’s national series if she can improve on her two wins and 11 top 10s in 14 K&N Series (now the ARCA Menards Series) starts last year.

“Hailie has shown in her brief time behind the wheel of a stock car that she’s got what it takes to be successful,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, in a press release.  “Our goal is to put her on a path to realize our shared goal of winning championships and part of that is gaining experience on tracks such as road courses and superspeedways.  We feel this year will serve as a good foundation for what lies ahead.”

The daughter of action sports star Brian Deegan, Hailie Deegan is just the second woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race, following Shawna Robinson. She’s earned three wins in 28 ARCA Menards Series West races over the last two years, and she has a knack for winning in dramatic fashion. She finished third in the K&N West standings in 2019.

One of her ARCA Menards Series East starts this year was with DGR-Crosley, which recently announced its switch from Toyota to Ford with the intent of being part of the company’s development program.

Deegan made six ARCA Menards Series starts this year, earning one top five and four top-10 finishes.

MORE: Hailie Deegan on the Dale Jr. Download: “I’m a racer, not a model”

MORE: Hailie Deegan on the struggles of finding sponsorship

DGR-Crosley switches from Toyota to Ford beginning in 2020

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Ford Performance is strengthening its driver development program by joining forces with DGR-Crosley, which announced its move from Toyota to Ford Wednesday.

The multi-year agreement will see team co-owner David Gilliland, a former Cup Series driver, lead the team’s driver development program as it field entries in late models, the ARCA Menards Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

“We’re very excited to have DGR-Crosley come to Ford as part of our long-term efforts to develop drivers for NASCAR,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports in a press release. “We have just scratched the surface of what is possible in developing the next generation of Ford drivers with people like Chase Briscoe, and we believe a coordinated effort with a team like DGR-Crosley will help move that process forward successfully.

“David Gilliland was a trusted and valued Ford driver in NASCAR for many years, and we look forward to renewing that relationship with him in this new effort.”

Said Gilliland: “I’m super excited about the partnership with Ford and how things are lining up for 2020. I spent a lot of time racing Fords throughout my career, and it’s really special to now be able to bring them into our race shop. A lot of time and consideration was spent on this decision, and internally we know that this is the move that we needed to make in order to advance our program to the top level. We have a great group of hard-working, talented people at DGR-Crosley, and with Ford coming on board, our future is really bright. We’re excited for all the things ahead.”

DGR-Crosley will announce its driver lineup at a later date.

The team first entered the Truck Series in 2018. Tyler Ankrum won its first race this year at Kentucky Speedway, qualifying for the playoffs in the process.

It fielded a team record five entries in the playoff race at ISM Raceway.

Joe Gibbs Racing among serious bidders to build NextGen chassis

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. – When NASCAR initially set a 2021 deadline for launching its NextGen car, Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson was skeptical of the timeframe.

Nearly a year later, he believes NASCAR’s overhaul is on track for next season, but he still has reservations about the aggressive rollout of a project that he compares with one of the most ambitious undertakings of the 20th century.

“We need another year, really,” Wilson told NBCSports.com last week about the release of the new car. “Because here’s my concern: We can’t afford to get this wrong. But the analogy is when NASA is doing a moon shot or rocket launch, that’s pretty well thought out, and they’re not afraid to pull the date back. What we’re doing in a relative sense feels like the same thing.

“There’s going to be more change in a year than this sport has seen in the past 60 years combined. Cumulative. It’s a revolutionary change. We as an industry need to get this right.”

During his annual address of the news media Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR president Steve Phelps reaffirmed multiple times that the Next Gen is on pace for a 2021 debut.

A prototype of the car recently made its debut at Richmond Raceway with Austin Dillon (whose Richard Childress Racing team worked with NASCAR to build the prototype), but Cup teams likely won’t take delivery on a real-world version to test until next July.

Using a Request For Proposal-type process, NASCAR is soliciting bids on suppliers for the various stock elements that the new car will have, principally the chassis (in a structure that will resemble how Dallara supplies IndyCar teams with a standard chassis).

“The car is on schedule,” Phelps said. “I have to give a shoutout to, again, really the entire industry because they’re working collaboratively.  NASCAR runs the process, but there are teams that are involved, (manufacturers) that are involved, and that’s how we’re going to be successful moving forward.”

Multiple people familiar with the Next Gen process but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly told NBCSports.com that there are at least three companies being considered seriously to build the chassis.

That list includes Joe Gibbs Racing, which is one of multiple Cup teams that inquired about bidding on the chassis.

It isn’t unusual for a Cup team to build chassis for others (such as Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and JGR) have counted rivals as clients. But it would be new to have a single team that builds chassis for the entire field.

Phelps mostly demurred when asked by NBCSports.com how NASCAR would handle that arrangement.

“With respect to those that are in the RFPs to build the car, I don’t want to get into specifics about where that is,” Phelps said. “There would obviously need to be a separation between that race team and whatever part or the vehicle itself that’s being put together.

“If there is a team that is interested in competing for what that’s going to be, it would have to be kind of removed from what that organization is.”

Wilson said TRD favors Cup teams getting involved in the business of building the new car because of their familiarity with the output.

“It’s kind of polarizing because of the perceived advantage for the team that’s supplying, but the reason I say that it works to our favor is because nobody understands like a team does what it means to make a quality part,” he said.

Goodyear’s move from a 15- to 18-inch wheel with the new car also will need to be factored into the timeline of the rollout. Goodyear’s Greg Stucker said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR’s The Morning Drive that it’ll be a “significant change,” but that the tire supplier is on schedule with NASCAR and teams.

Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook said nearly 10 months ago that he was optimistic about having the new car by 2021 and reiterated his enthusiasm in a Saturday news conference with manufacturer executives hosted by NASCAR.

“It’s a very exciting time for NASCAR,” Rushbrook said. “To see all the technology and architecture changes that are going into Next Gen, it’s had a very successful test already. I think the fans are going to be excited once they see the final versions of the car. And then leading beyond ’21 to further technology with hybrid I think is important for all of us as manufacturers.”

The commonality of the new car should eliminate the assembly lines that many teams have and result in cost savings (in part by trimming staff). That theoretically should lower the barrier of entry to NASCAR for new teams and manufacturers (NASCAR courted a prospective automaker two weeks ago in Phoenix, according to Phelps).

Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor North America, said the cost reductions were “overdue and had to happen, so one way or another there needs to be new blood brought into the sport, new team ownership brought into the sport, and this is the way that it’s going to happen. I think the vision of (NASCAR chairman) Jim France and of NASCAR right now was very, very appropriate.”

The new car also will enhance showroom relevance with the addition of independent rear suspension.

“When you see the proportions of this car, it fits the production vehicle even better, particularly in the rear,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet. “It matches up to where the Camaro is, and we’re really quite excited about that. Finally, we’ve got symmetry between left‑ and right‑hand side. We needed that so it looks more like the street car.  We’ll have a wheel that really mirrors a little bit closer to what you see on the production side in terms of size.”

Phelps said NASCAR has another test of the new car in a few weeks, and Toyota had a Next Gen body in a wind tunnel last week for the second time.

“I handicapped the possibility of racing in ’21 (with the Next Gen car) as a very slim chance,” Wilson said. “I have to eat a little crow. It is on the calendar as they laid out. On paper, it certainly looks like ’21, and certainly Jim France has not given one inch to hedging that.

“I will say that everything has to go to that schedule. There’s no margin for slipping.”

Wilson also believes there needs to be more than one vendor available for some parts to safeguard against unforeseen emergencies and faulty manufacturing.

“I was talking to Steve O’Donnell and Jim France at Charlotte just kind of cautioning them relative to the slippery slope that you have with a single-source supplier,” Wilson said. “Anecdotally, we used to have one valve-spring supplier, and that bit us in the butt. Now we have two. The issue there is very pragmatic, in case say you have a fire that takes out your factory. But the other side is you have a bad batch of material or something that puts you in a tough spot, and you don’t have a backup.

“So just suggesting that they use some, not common sense per se, but that they think about contingencies relative to the supply of parts and pieces.”

Wilson also believes a backup is needed for keeping the 2020 cars in place just in case NASCAR is unable to hit the 2021 target.

But he added the financial straits that many teams are facing have made the ’21 deadline a necessary reality for the NASCAR industry.

“We all know there are teams on the precipice of failing. So there is a lot of pressure,” Wilson said. “We appreciate and respect that there are parts of our sport that are in trouble.

“The team ownership model is nuts. So it’s not that we shouldn’t be attempting (the Next Gen in ’21). But we just need to get it right. If we can’t — hand on heart — make that target in ’21, we need to be prepared with a contingency plan.”

Chase Briscoe explains why he’s ‘racing for my life’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Hours after he failed to defend his 2018 Xfinity Series win on the Charlotte Roval, Chase Briscoe posted a tweet saying he’s “racing for my life and trying to prove I deserve to be here.”

That sentiment comes even though the 24-year-old racer has two to three years left on his contract with Ford, which began in 2017.

“It’s still performance based,” Briscoe told NBC Sports Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a day after his ninth-place finish on the Roval. “I have to go win races and run up front. (Saturday) was a perfect opportunity to win a race. That was one of the best cars we’ve had all year-long. So (we) were in contention all day long, so trying to take advantage of that, that’s what I was trying to do is win a race.

“Last year winning this race is what catapulted me to being full-time at Stewart-Haas. So if I could do that this year, I feel like it would just up my odds for next year going racing.”

Added Briscoe: “I want to show Ford they made the right decision on taking a risk with me.”

On Friday, Briscoe told NBC Sports that Ford has “assured me I’m going to be in something” after this year.

“That’s kind of the unique thing with being a Ford driver. Even if you look at last year, I drove for two different teams (Stewart-Haas and Roush Fenway) under the Ford umbrella. I can go to Stewart-Haas again, I can go to Roush, I can go to Penske, I can go to any of those race teams just because I am a Ford driver. It’s good for a thing like that, but at the same time if I had my choice I want to be at Stewart-Haas. My hero growing up was Tony (Stewart). This is a place I feel comfortable.

“A lot of guys over there are dirt guys and just people I get along with. … I feel confident that’s where we’re working towards.”

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was in a good position to earn his second win of the year Saturday until a run-in with Christopher Bell with less than 11 laps to go in the race.

The two were racing for second when Briscoe pulled out to pass Bell on his right in the final two turns. Right as he was about to complete the pass, Bell ran out of room, made contact with Briscoe’s left rear and overshot the chicane, which is illegal.

As they went through Turn 2 on the ensuing lap, Bell made contact with Briscoe’s left side, sending him into a spin and causing a caution. Bell had to restart from the rear of the field for missing the chicane and not stopping along the frontstretch before the start/finish line, as required by NASCAR. He went on to finish 12th while Briscoe placed ninth and A.J. Allmendinger won.

“I know Christopher well enough and raced with him long enough I feel like to know that he doesn’t just get loose like that,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Sunday. “I can see why he was mad after over (in the final turn), but I don’t know that it necessarily … it wasn’t worth ruining our day over here.”

Briscoe, whose one win this year came at Iowa over Bell, speculated the site of this year’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway may have influenced the incident with Bell.

“I know in the trucks I remember him talking to me how they knew we were going to be good at Homestead,” Briscoe said. “He was at our test at Homestead this year. I feel like for sure if a non-playoff guy can win a race that just helps their situation as well. I don’t know what’s going on his mind. I’m not too worried about it. I just hate we didn’t win the race yesterday.”