UPDATE: The truck of race runner-up Zane Smith was disqualified following post-race inspection. The official NASCAR statement is as follows: “The No. 38 has been disqualified as it did not conform to the NASCAR rule specifications per the following rule(s): 14.16.1 – 1-4 Lug Nuts”
The original story on Hailie Deegan follows:
There’s no question it’s been a rough tenure thus far for Hailie Deegan in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Deegan, who is highly anticipated to eventually become a big success in NASCAR, logged her 25th start in the Truck Series in Friday night’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
And like many of her 24 previous starts, Deegan once again had a very difficult outing, finishing 33rd (she originally finished 34th prior to Zane Smith’s disqualification) in the 36-truck field (more on that in a moment).
When Danica Patrick retired in 2018, her heir apparent – whether she wanted to be put in that position or not – was Deegan. With Danica gone, many looked at Deegan as the next great hope for female drivers in stock car racing.
Like Patrick, Deegan – even though she was just a fresh-faced teenager – was attractive, a very eloquent spokesperson for her sponsors far beyond her years, had the comfortable look of a longtime veteran and quickly became a fan favorite (she has nearly 128,000 Twitter followers).
She also was highly coveted by teams, sponsors and manufacturers.
Deegan had some strong showings in some of the lower racing ranks such as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (finished 5th in the final standings as a 17-year-old in 2018 and 3rd in 2019, with a combined three wins across both seasons).
When she was promoted full-time to the ARCA Menards Series in 2020, while she failed to visit victory lane, the Temecula, California resident had a very strong showing, earning four top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes in 20 starts, finishing an impressive third in the final standings.
At the precocious age of just 19 years old.
That led to another promotion up the rungs of the racing ladder, jumping to David Gilliland’s Ford-powered Truck Series team in 2021.
Unfortunately, that’s where Deegan’s forward movement hit the wall, just like the three straight crashes she endured late in the season.
She ultimately finished the 2021 campaign in 17th, the same position she had been without any further movement upward or downward since the 11th race of the 22-race season.
She managed just one top-10 finish last season, a 7th-place showing at Gateway, just outside of St. Louis.
Further breaking down her 2021 season stats, Deegan:
* Finished between 11th and 15th just three times.
* Finished between 16th and 20th six times.
* Finished between 21st and 25th seven times.
* And finished between 26th and 30th five times.
All told, Deegan had a starting average of 18.0 and a finishing average of 20.9, with just 11 lead lap finishes in the 22 races she took part in.
Unfortunately, things haven’t started much better for Deegan in her sophomore full-time campaign in 2022 than they finished as a rookie in 2021.
In the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway two weeks ago, while she completed all 106 laps in the No. 1 Ford F-150, she finished 17th.
And then Friday night in Las Vegas, following a green flag restart off a caution, she was collected in a crash on Lap 28 on the 1.5-mile oval that also involved Colby Howard, Kyle Busch, Zane Smith, Chase Purdy and Matt Crafton.
The wreck was definitely not of Deegan’s doing, but like several times already in her budding NASCAR career, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s not much you can do in a situation like that.
Admittedly, whether it’s the Truck Series, Cup or Xfinity, many NASCAR drivers historically experience a sophomore jinx in their second full-time season. It’s been like that since the sport began over 70 years ago.
Unfortunately, it appears Deegan’s sophomore jinx began even earlier as a freshman – and has continued on. She leaves Las Vegas, the second race of the season, having dropped 10 places in the Truck standings, falling to 27th place.
To her credit, the 20-year-old Deegan isn’t giving up on herself, her ability and talent or her goals and dreams of eventually not only reaching the Cup Series, but to also become a star in NASCAR’s premier series.
Fear not, that success will come. It may take a while longer than perhaps she and her fans and sponsors had hoped, but Deegan is far too good to continue to be mired in statistical mediocrity.
All it likely will take is for her to earn one or two strong top-5 finishes in short order – perhaps as early as the next Truck Series race, March 19 at Atlanta Motor Speedway – to give her and her team a significant boost of confidence, and from there, her first win is likely soon to follow.
Once that happens, more wins are likely on the horizon for her.
So don’t give up on young Miss Deegan just yet. Don’t forget, she’s still very young, she’s still learning – and more importantly, learning from her mistakes – and will emerge as a much better driver in due time.
As for Friday’s race, Chandler Smith held off Zane Smith — who was subsequently disqualified due to lug nut issues — and Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag. Here’s the updated results and driver point standings after the DQ:
Follow Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski