Hailie Deegan

Toyota Racing Development

Hailie Deegan to make ARCA debut Sunday in Toledo

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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).

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NASCAR Avengers: Endgame edition

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It’s April, so that means it’s time for another Marvel’s Avengers save the world yet again in movie theaters around the globe.

Avengers: Endgame will be released tonight and it’s expected to make an impressive amount of money despite being three hours long. Yes, three hours.

We decided to exploit the series’ attention for the second year in a row by making our own Avengers lineup of NASCAR drivers.

Just like in the comics/movies, the roster has changed some, but not due to a contract dispute/scheduling conflict/being snapped out of existence.

Send your Avengers/NASCAR recommendations to Daniel McFadin.

Stan Lee – Since our first Avengers posts last year, Jim France has assumed the position of NASCAR Chairman and CEO. He’s the perfect person to make a cameo in our NASCAR Avengers movie like the late comic book creator.

Nick Fury – Steve Phelps took over as NASCAR’s president last year. Now give that man an eyepatch.

Iron Man – Austin Dillon has that outlandish Tony Stark style and he parties like the billionaire playboy philanthropist would if he owned a barn and some fancy cars.

Rocket RaccoonTony Stewart isn’t a talking animal. But the talking raccoon is a weapons expert who likes to make things go boom and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. If you’re ever in a tight spot that requires the use of a flame thrower, Stewart is your man.

Star Lord AKA Peter Quill – Nothing changed here. Clint Bowyer is still from the Midwest and he’s still the driver most likely to call someone a “turd blossom.”

Captain America/Falcon/Winter Soldier – Captain America and Falcon bring to mind the Ryan Blaney/Bubba Wallace duo and NASCAR’s best bromance. Chase Elliott gets the nod as the Winter Soldier anti-hero because he doesn’t get invited to their hangouts. Also, Blaney has to shave his facial hair every year like Steve Rogers in Endgame.

Spider-Man – The 18-year-old Harrison Burton takes Spidey’s web-shooters from William Byron. Somebody born after Y2K should get in on the action here.

The Incredible Hulk – Don’t make Daniel Suarez angry, especially in qualifying.

Thor – Since the “God of Thunder” got a hair cut and trimmed his beard recently, Jeffrey Earnhardt is replaced in the role by Kyle Busch and his beard.

Doctor Strange – Last year, Brad Keselowski was the pick here, but Ryan Preece gets the nod in 2019. Magic is the only reasonable explanation for how he’s avoided some wrecks this season.

Drax the Destroyer – Just like this Guardian of the Galaxy, it takes a lot to make Paul Menard smile.

Captain Marvel – The newest Avenger on the scene must be played by two-time K&N Pro  Series West winner Hailie Deegan.

 

Friday 5: Kyle Larson seeks to beat Kyle Busch at Bristol

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It was one of the first things Kyle Larson said after he won the Xfinity race last August at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I wish Kyle Busch wouldn’t have had his troubles so I could have raced him,” Larson said.

Busch hit the wall that night and failed to finish. It is Busch who has kept Larson from many more wins at Bristol and why Larson would have liked to have beaten Busch head-to-head last year. Maybe Larson will get his chance Sunday when the series returns to Bristol.

Larson has finished second at Bristol five times in either Cup or Xfinity — including both Cup races last year. Busch has won four of those races (and Kurt Busch won the other).

“I don’t feel like I’m owed anything anywhere but that’s the one track that time after time I’ve been close to winning a race there … and I just don’t get it done,” Larson said.

The last time Kyle Busch beat Larson, Busch used a bump and run to get by Larson with six laps to go in last April’s Cup race.

It would be nice to beat him anywhere,” Larson said of Busch with a laugh. “Maybe my first Xfinity win in Fontana would be like the only one where I felt like I beat him. Bristol, especially, I feel I’m as good or better than him there.

“Their team and him do a really good job in the second half of the races to beat me and get track position. I feel like I’m definitely at least equal with him there but he wins all the time. It would be nice to finally beat him there.”

An example of what Busch is able to do was last April’s Cup race at Bristol. Larson had an average running position of 3.1 in that race compared to Busch’s average position of 4.2 but Busch won.

Larson could use a strong showing. He has two top-10 finishes this season and is coming off a 39th-place showing at Texas when his race ended early because of an accident.

2. “Right on target”

Seventeen-year-old Hailie Deegan leads the points after two races in the K&N West Pro Series. The Toyota Racing Development driver is impressing TRD President David Wilson.

“I think Hailie is right on target,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “This is an important year for her because this will be the second full season that she will have had in that series. For her, it’s that pavement, the reps that she needs. I think she’s got a really good attitude about it.

“We always say that’s so important is that you can win where you’re racing today. It’s too easy to look to the horizon, ‘I want to be in Trucks or ARCA or what have you.’ She says all the time I need to win here. Having said that, we’re really happy with her progress.”

With the K&N Pro Series West off until May 11 for the twin 100 races at Tucson Speedway, Deegan will compete in Saturday’s K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Deegan also will run six ARCA races this season. The first race in that series will be May 19 at Toledo Speedway. She’ll also compete at Pocono (May 31), Madison International Speedway (June 14), Elko Speedway (July 13), Lucas Oil Raceway (Oct. 5) and Kansas Speedway (Oct. 18).

3. Challenge to drivers

With the additional downforce on cars, Cup drivers expect speeds to be up this weekend at Bristol. That means higher corner speeds.

That race I think has a lot of people on pins and needles, not just physically, which it should be physically, but with the cars themselves,” Brad Keselowski said. “I think the cars are really going to see a lot of load and a lot of stress.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., though, isn’t worried.

“Driving-wise I saw people thinking it’s gonna be tough,” he said. “If they think it’s going to be tough, I feel like they should hit the gym more. I think we’ll be fine. I won’t fall out of the seat. I feel like I’ll be good. 

“I feel like our cars are gonna be fast. I feel like we’re prepared to go there and hopefully win. That’s the mindset that we have going into Bristol. As far as tires and things like that go, it’s not up to me if they handle or not. Hopefully, everything car-wise holds up. I’ll be good.”

4. Will Chevy’s drought continue?

Chevrolet, winless this season, has won four of the last 43 Cup races.

The only Chevrolet drivers to have won since last year are Chase Elliott (three victories and Austin Dillon (Daytona 500).

Bristol has not been hospitable to Chevy teams. Chevrolet has won two of the past 11 Bristol Cup races (Jimmie Johnson in 2017 and Kevin Harvick in 2016)

5. Extra emphasis

Each round of next year’s playoffs before the championship race for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks will end at a short track or Roval.

It’s part of a philosophy to give fans what they want and create more drama.

It also skewed the balance of short tracks (those that are less than 1 mile) in the Cup playoffs compared to the regular season.

In Cup, three of 26 races in the regular season (11.5 percent) next season will be at short tracks, but thee of the 10 playoff races (30 percent) will be short tracks. 

In the Xfinity Series, four of the 26 races in the regular season (15.4 percent) will be at short tracks, but two of the seven playoff races (28.6 percent) will be at short tracks.

In the Truck Series, three of the 16 races in the regular season (18.8 percent) will be at short tracks, but two of the seven playoffs races (28.6) percent will be at short tracks.

It will be interesting to see how much of an added emphasis teams will put on short tracks next year because of their importance in the playoffs.

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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.

 

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.