In a statement to NBC Sports, the 86-year-old Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, said of his grandson’s achievement: “I just knew it was a matter of time until Jagger rose to the top and won at this level. I’m very proud of him. Jagger has worked hard on his racing skills this year and continues to improve and learn.
“Not only is Jagger a good driver but he’s a very good student. I’ve been impressed by both Jagger and Jace (his younger brother) – they continue to work hard and balance their driving with their work in the classroom. They’re outstanding young men on and off the track and I’m truly a very proud grandfather. Jagger and his team earned this win after a successful season and hopefully it’s a building block for the future.”
Hailie Deegan, who started on the pole, overcame an early spin and finished second.
This is Jones’ first season in the series. He had finished runner-up twice, scoring those finishes in his first career series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track in March and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in June.
CONCORD, N.C. — Fourteen years after her racing career ended, Shawna Robinson got to experience a first at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
On a hot September day, the former NASCAR driver arrived on the track’s pit road as one drop in a sea of pink.
Robinson, 54, wore a pink shirt identical to those worn by numerous other women who covered pit road, signifying their status as survivors of breast cancer. They were all there to help paint the track’s pit wall pink ahead of NASCAR’s Roval race weekend.
For Robinson, the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race (Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series’ AC Delco 100 at New Asheville Speedway on June 10, 1988), it was the first time she’d attended the “Paint Pit Wall Pink” event to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Robinson, who once suffered from Stage 3 breast cancer, has been in remission since 2015.
“It’s just an honor to be a part of this,” Robinson told NBC Sports. “You just see the courage of all these survivors and you know the process you go through once you’re diagnosed, it’s a journey.”
October is significant for Robinson not just because of her experience with cancer. In January 2014, two months before her diagnosis, her father-in-law Dale Clark passed way after a short battle with prostate cancer.
“We had just lost (Dale) and the next thing you know, I have the same oncologist and I’m doing chemo in the room that he did, and my mother-in-law’s there with me,” Robinson recalled. “Things just come full circle. It’s been really, really tough on everybody losing Dale and then for me to get through the process and then for (son) Tanner.”
Six months after her last radiation treatment in September 2015, Tanner was diagnosed with testicular cancer just before his 20th birthday. He’s now cancer free and pursuing a career as a professional gamer.
“We were able to catch it early,” Robinson said. “Him going to chemo was probably harder. I went through chemo for three years, he went through it for six months because it was such a different type of treatment.
“Just to see him go through that and the frailness was really, really tough. But he’s cancer free. When I lost my hair, he shaved his head (to give moral support). Little did he know a few years down the road he’d be losing his hair due to chemo.”
Robinson shared a lesson that came to mind seeing her fellow survivors gather at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“Life never will be the same again, but you’re fortunate,” she said. “It changes the person who you are and I feel that it makes you a better person. It makes the life that you’ve lived even that more grateful to have another day to live it.”
After not having raced since she failed to qualify for the April 2005 Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, Robinson is still finding ways to live within the racing community. And that’s not including being a member of the National Motorsports Appeals panel.
“I think I got part of it from my mother, who was very much into decor, and I grew up as a little girl going to flea markets and antique stores and my dad was the racer,” Robinson said. “Every weekend was at a race track.”
Robinson “dabbled” in design when she took a two-year hiatus from racing in the 90s to have her two children, Tanner and Samantha.
“Really just word of mouth, it just really picked up with, ‘Would you help me do this, would you help me do that?'” Robinson said. “Then I went back into racing in ’99 and then basically got out of it in 2005. (Going back to design work) seemed like the next step to go to.”
Robinson describes her style as “very eclectic,” as she likes to “take old patterns and mix them up. I’m a little mixed up, so I guess that works well for me.”
Anyone with familiar with JR Motorsports’ headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina, might have seen her work.
“Still to this day if you see any kind of interviews with the crew or the team it’s on the blocked wall in the back with all those colors,” Robinson said. “I was literally on a scaffolding painting those squares. It’s pretty cool to still see that. I worked very closely with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Kelley (Earnhardt Miller). Everybody kind of did their race shops in red, black, silver. He wanted to go a totally different route and we used a lot of earth tones and odd colors. It’s a very homey feel to that shop and it’s a very family feel with JR Motorsports. …
“I created that atmosphere and to see it 10, 15 years later and it’s still standing. A lot of times when you go to a job you did in the beginning or early on and you go back to it and you think ‘Oooh, I could have done this different.’ I don’t feel that way, I feel like it’s really held its beautiful look that it has.”
For Robinson to focus on her new endeavors, she believed she had to “pull the door down on that world” of racing, which saw her make 72 starts in national NASCAR races, become the first woman to win a pole in the Xfinity Series (Atlanta 1994) and be the second woman to compete in the Daytona 500.
And Robinson is clear “You can’t do racing halfway.”
“Any career you want to succeed at, you can’t do it halfway,” she said. “So I really had to dive into (interior design) and just think I had the support and the clientele because of being in the racing world and people have a trust with you. Giving you the key to their house or giving you the opportunity to go in and work with their things.”
The club of woman who have competed in NASCAR is small, but Robinson has high hopes for the latest woman to grab the sport’s spotlight, Hailie Deegan.
Thirty years after Robinson, Deegan became the second woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race last year when she won at Meridian (Idaho) Speedway in the K&N Pro Series West. She’s added two more wins this season.
“She seems like such a confident girl,” Robinson said. “There’s no question she’s a hard driver that’s not afraid to put her nose (in a tight spot) to get to the next spot. I think she’s got a ton of potential. The fact that she’s running with Toyota support and she’s running different K&N races, she can pretty much get into anything and drive it. I think that’s going to be her saving grace.”
Robinson has never met Deegan. If she does, what would she like to talk to her about?
“I hope she knows who I am would be one thing,” Robinson said with a slight laugh, “or who I was.”
Even if Deegan doesn’t know who she is, plenty of people still remember her career.
Robinson said she gets autograph cards in the mail “every day and get people that want things signed or just want to know how I’m doing. I’m happy about all that. They’re still very, very supportive.”
Hailie Deegan joins DGR-Crosley for K&N East Bristol race
Hailie Deegan will compete for DGR-Crosley in Thursday night’s K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the team announced Monday.
Deegan, 18, competes full-time in the K&N West series and has made 12 starts in the East Series the last two years. All her K&N starts have come with Bill McAnally Racing.
This will be her first start for the team co-owned by David Gilliland, who fields two K&N cars and three entries in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
Deegan will drive the No. 54 Toyota with sponsorship from iK9. She’ll have Ty Gibbs and Tanner Gray as teammates.
“It’s awesome that we were able to work with DGR-Crosley on running the K&N East race at Bristol,” Deegan said in a press release. “They have top-notch equipment and people within their organization. Every weekend they are competing for wins, and as a driver, that’s all you want — a chance to win.”
Deegan, who has three K&N West wins, has made two Bristol starts in the East Series. She finished 22nd last year and 16th earlier this season after a wreck.
The Bush’s Beans 150 will air live at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday on fanschoice.tv and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. ET Aug. 21 on NBCSN.
Hailie Deegan, Derek Kraus working their way up NASCAR’s ladder
In many sports, for an athlete to succeed at the highest level, they will generally hone their skills in a developmental league. NASCAR is no different.
Just as up-and-coming baseball prospects have to prove their worth in the minor leagues before making the majors, many future Cup stars begin their NASCAR careers in a lower division such as the K&N Pro Series.
Comparable to single-A baseball, the K&N Pro Series, which is geographically split into two separate West and East championships, is the one of the first steps on the NASCAR developmental ladder. The K&N East and West Series will run together Friday at Iowa Speedway with NBCSN’s broadcast scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on July 31. In K&N Pro competition, young drivers not only fight for wins but also future rides.
For two of the most popular drivers in K&N competition, Bill McAnally Racing teammates Hailie Deegan and Derek Kraus, winning means everything. All other drivers – including teammates – are the competition.
“You really have no allies,” Deegan told NBC Sports. “In the end, when it comes down to a couple of laps to go, no one is friends.
“You might be ‘buddies’ in the beginning and not run each other hard, but when it comes down to it, a win is a win, and I’ll do anything to get it. You focus on yourself in the end. You’re battling for rides. You’re battling for seats and equipment.”
Kraus was less than pleased with the result, and would later Tweet “Mama always told me if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all!”
With her two K&N West victories so far this season, Deegan is second in the series points standings, eight points behind Kraus. In the East Series, where she competes on a part-time basis, she is 10th in the standings. Kraus, who is competing in both championships full-time, also leads the East points standings.
Kraus, who turns 18 in September, is looking to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win both the East and West championships in the same year.
In 13 K&N Pro starts this season between both series, he’s accumulated five wins, eight top fives and 12 top 10s. In his most recent K&N West victory at Douglas County Speedway in Oregon on June 29, he led all 150 laps from the pole.
Even though he makes it look easy, Kraus admits that fighting for the win in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Seriesweek in and week out is no easy task.
“I think there’s a lot of good competition,” Kraus said. “You have Hailie, Kody Vanderwal, the Sunrise Ford cars (Jagger Jones and Trevor Huddleston), Todd Souza. There’s a bunch of other people where K&N will go to their local track and they’ll jump in a car and be really fast.
“I feel like there’s a lot of good competition on both the East and West Coasts for the K&N season. There’s a lot of aggressive, hungry younger drivers that are in this series.”
That hunger and aggression has propelled many K&N Pro Series alumni to stock car racing’s highest levels. Former series champions who currently race in the Cup Series include Kevin Harvick (1998 West champion), Joey Logano (2007 East champion), Kyle Larson (2012 East champion), and William Byron (2015 East champion).
Earlier this month, 2016 K&N East Series champion Justin Haley won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, and 2018 East Series champ Tyler Ankrum won a Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway to earn a playoff spot.
So how does a promising 17 or 18-year-old driver handle the pressure of being one of NASCAR’s top prospects? Learning the ropes of stock car racing can be tough enough, but when a driver has expectations placed on them that they’re going to be the next best thing, constantly living up to those expectations can be tough.
“You definitely think about that when you’re outside of the car and at home and hanging out with friends and stuff,” Kraus said. “But once I put my helmet on and get all strapped in and the race starts, I feel like that’s my happy place.”
Deegan, however, believes that the pressure is what you make of it.
“If you prepare beforehand and know that you’re in the best possible situation that you can put yourself in, there’s no reason to feel the pressure – because you’re doing the best you can,” Deegan said. “The only reason you’d be nervous is if you didn’t prepare beforehand.”
Confidence is key, but for a young driver to achieve the most out of their potential, a level-headed approach also is equally important.
“It’s funny because I think there’s a difference between confident and cocky,” Deegan said. “I feel like a lot of drivers are cocky, and I don’t want to be cocky.
“I want to feel confident in my abilities to where I’m not questioning myself. I want to be able to feel confident in my car, which I do right now, and I feel confident in my ability (to race) just because I’ve been putting a lot of work into it. I’m not trying to be cocky, I’m trying to show all of the work I’ve been putting into my racing.”
Hard work, by the way, has paid off for both drivers. For Kraus, his dominance in the K&N Pro Series led to his first Gander Outdoors Truck Series start for BMR at ISM Raceway in November, where he started and finished eighth. Kraus also competed in two Truck races earlier this year, at Martinsville and Dover, and will make two more starts later this year at Las Vegas and ISM Raceway.
Deegan competed in the first of a six-race ARCA schedule for Venturini Motorsports at Toledo Speedway in May and will make her final two scheduled starts for the team in October at Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis) and Kansas Speedway.
With several months remaining in the 2019 NASCAR season, it may be too early to tell where each driver will be racing next season, but it is likely that both will race at least part-time at a higher level next year.
“I’ve had people talk to me about opportunities to race full-time in Trucks and although I think I could go out there and have some good races, I want to go out there and come out swinging,” Deegan said.
“Every single level I want to hit, and I want to make sure I can be good. I want to at least be in the front pack of every single level at minimum before I move up.”