Hailie Deegan

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With races postponed, NASCAR drivers sign digital autographs for fans

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed all NASCAR races until at least May, several of the sport’s drivers have still been able to sign autographs for fans – virtually at least.

Many drivers have recently begun to sign digital autographs for fans via social media. Similar to a traditional autograph session, where fans bring photos and memorabilia for drivers to sign, fans have been tweeting pictures to drivers with the hopes of getting them to sign the photos with a phone stylus.

The new trend appears to have started on March 13 when a fan tweeted a request for a digital autograph to Hailie Deegan.

“Some guy just tweeted a pic of him and I and wanted me to sign it. So I screenshot it and signed it on my phone and then sent it back,” Deegan tweeted. “Not gonna lie, laying in bed signing autographs ain’t too bad.”

After Deegan sent that tweet, several fans responded with similar requests for autographs. Deegan continued to sign for them as well.

One of the fans who replied to Deegan’s tweet, tagged Corey LaJoie, asking if he would sign an autograph as well. LaJoie obliged.

Since then, several other drivers from NASCAR’s top three series have begun to sign digital autographs for fans, many signing photos fans had taken with them.

Racers from IndyCar and NHRA have also since joined in on the fun.

Team Penske has also encouraged all 15 of its drivers across NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Supercars to sign a group photo. All 14 of Penske’s drivers have signed the photo.

While racetracks all around the world sit empty, signing digital autographs has proved to be yet another way drivers can continue to interact with fans.

Michael Self, Hailie Deegan finish 1-2 in ARCA season opener

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Michael Self held off a last-lap challenge by Hailie Deegan to win Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Self started from the pole and led 60 of the 80 laps in the 200-mile event. It was Self’s eighth career ARCA win (in 40 starts), including his second triumph in the season opener at Daytona.

“This is amazing, man, to start the season off like this, it’s unbelievable,” Self told FS1. “It’s just a great day overall. What an amazing car, to have our (Venturini Motorsports) cars finish 1 and 3 (teammate Drew Dollar) is unbelievable.”

Making her rookie effort at Daytona, Deegan becomes the third female (Erin Crocker three times and Shawna Robinson once) to finish runner-up in a race in ARCA Menards Series history. It was also her best finish in seven ARCA starts thus far.

“Coming into this race, my first goal was to finish, second goal was top 3 to top 5, I would have been ecstatic,” Deegan told FS1. “To come out here and finish second, runner-up, nothing could have been better. Obviously, every driver wants to win, but this was a victory for me.”

There were several incidents in the 80-lap, 200-mile event, but none bigger than a wreck on Lap 39 when more than a dozen cars were involved in a high-speed wreck. Among notable drivers involved were David Gravel, Natalie Decker, Andy Seuss and Dominique Van Wierengen.

On Lap 50, Deegan made slight contact with the right rear corner of Chuck Hiers, sending him head-on into the wall. Hiers and Deegan were running fifth and sixth at the time. Deegan’s car was not damaged in the incident.

With 11 laps to go, 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champ Tanner Gray’s day ended early when he was sent to pit road by ARCA officials due to excessive smoke from under the hood. Gray was running fourth when his motor let go.

The next ARCA Menards Series race is March 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

ARCA Daytona results

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Hailie Deegan on IMSA debut: ‘I’m not mad. I’m gaining experience’

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The first day of Hailie Deegan’s foray into sports car racing was one with mixed results.

Deegan and teammate, NASCAR Xfinity driver Chase Briscoe, finished 43rd of 51 teams that were entered in Friday’s Michelin Pilot Challenge at Daytona International Speedway.

Deegan ran as high as 15th before the car experienced mechanical issues roughly three hours into the four-hour event, and it was brought in to be worked on for the remaining time.

Deegan and Briscoe were in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford GT4, which ran a total of 86 laps. One other NASCAR driver, Xfinity pilot Austin Cindric, was teamed with Seb Priaulx in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Inc. Ford Mustang GT4, and together they finished 45th, completing 78 laps.

One other name of note was IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves, who finished 28th (completed 107 laps).

The fastest team in the field was Dylan Murry, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Jim Cox, who collectively ran the entire 110 laps.

While her team continued to work on the car in the garage, Deegan visited the infield media center to speak about her first race experience in an IMSA sports car.

I feel like I just gained a lot of experience,” Deegan said. “I’m here to gain experience after that three-day road test, coming here and practicing for two days.

“I just feel like I know a lot more about racing than I did before. And that’s why I’m here and supposed to be doing.”

The biggest challenge, Deegan said, was the large number of cars she had to compete against.

“The traffic is a little difficult to deal with; it’s not bad, though,” Deegan said. “It makes it fun. It makes it interesting. You constantly have to be on your toes.

“What I like about sports car racing is how many of the points you have to remember in your head. You get a little distracted for a second, and the next thing you know, you overdrive the corner that kind of laps into the next corner.

“So there’s constantly so much going on, you have to be on top of your game.”

While she would have liked to have more time on track had it not been for the mechanical issue, Deegan was philosophical about how the day played out.

“I’m not mad, I’m gaining experience,” she said. “That’s what I’m here to do.”

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A ‘crucial’ year for Hailie Deegan’s career begins at Daytona

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Hailie Deegan will be racing a sports car today at Daytona International Speedway with an eye toward her future in stock cars.

Signed by Ford Performance to a developmental deal that will put her in a full-time ARCA car (and possibly a truck race or two) this season, Deegan was surprised when the manufacturer also expressed a desire to put her in a few IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge events.

The first will be Friday’s season-opening BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour warmup race at Daytona International Speedway ahead of Saturday’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.

Deegan and Xfinity Series veteran Chase Briscoe will start 20th in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

MEET HAILIE DEEGAN: ‘I put my helmet on the same way as everyone else’

“I originally never planned on this, but (Ford) came to me and were like ‘we want to get you on our IMSA program,’” Deegan said. “’That’s what we did with Briscoe, (Cole) Custer, (Austin) Cindric. All the guys that came through the ranks with Ford.’

“When they told me that, I was excited because more road courses will be in the NASCAR world, and there already are quite a few. I think what makes an all-around good driver are the ones that are good at every single type of track.”

There’s been much talk of adding road and street races to the Cup schedule in the next few years, and the Xfinity Series schedule just expanded to five road courses with the move from the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 that will be driven by Hailie Deegan and Chase Briscoe.

Deegan, 18, still remains a long way from the top two national series, but they are her goal, which makes 2020 critical for earning results.

“This is the year that’s very important and crucial to my career because it decides contracts for years out with sponsors getting behind you for the higher levels,” said Deegan, who had three K&N Series victories in 2018-19. “If we can do good this year, I feel I can get more people behind me so we can go in the top three level series (of NASCAR), and have sponsors that want to stay with me full time while I’m there.

“My goal is to win a few races in the ARCA Series, which is going to be hard. There are a lot of good guys, good cars this year.”

Aside from running full time in ARCA for DGR-Crosley, Deegan would “love to do a truck race” if the sponsorship materializes, “but funding right now is all focused on ARCA so we can try to work toward those championships and winning races. I know I want to be in a good car with good people behind me. If we can focus on that, hopefully everything else will come along.”

Click here to read the full version of this story from NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk.

2020 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Start time, TV schedule, lineup and more

Rain hampers first of two-day ARCA test at Daytona

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Friday’s first day of a two-day open test for the ARCA Menards Series at Daytona International Speedway was cut short due to rain.

A total of 37 cars – out of 50 that were entered – took to the 2.5-mile oval, with Connor Hall of Chad Bryant Racing turning in the fastest lap of 181.046 mph, followed by Ronnie Osmor (180.890 mph) and Jacob Heafner (180.843).

“We were working on single car runs this morning,” Hall said in an ARCA media release. “We had a game plan to work on the car and getting air where we wanted it.

“We made some gains and learned some things we liked and didn’t like. That’s what testing is all about. We were focused on what we needed to be better on last year. We have a great racecar. We are happy but not totally happy so we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”

Added Heafner, “It was a learning curve at the beginning. I calmed myself down and got to driving. It is a big change coming from late models on short tracks. We worked a little on single car runs and then got out there in the draft a little. We’re learning a lot and ready to come back in February.”

Other notable names in the field included Ty Gibbs, grandson of NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, who was fourth fastest (180.825 mph), Riley Herbst (seventh, 180.552), Tanner Gray (17th, 176.602), Hailie Deegan (18th, 176.167) and Sam Mayer (30th, 172.894).

2020r01 Daytona Test Friday Speeds

Teams hope the weather is more cooperative Saturday, the second day of the two-day test, which is in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 on Saturday, February 8. A morning session begins at 9 a.m. ET, while the afternoon session is set to start at 1 p.m. ET. Live timing and scoring will be available throughout the day at ARCARacing.com.

Here’s a video, courtesy of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, of an interview Deegan gave before the rain came:

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