Hailie Deegan has come to expect the obvious question, and she doesn’t mind.
Are you the next Danica Patrick?
“I have met her but we never really talked about racing,” is how the eighteen-year-old driver begins her answer. “She was getting out of the NASCAR world as I was entering, so our paths really never crossed.”
It’s been ten years since Danica Patrick began her transition from Indy Cars to NASCAR Stock Cars. She’s now retired but there is little to note about her NASCAR career. Her most noteworthy achievement came in 2013 when she earned the pole for the Daytona 500. Patrick only netted seven top-ten finishes in 191 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series. Patrick’s popularity didn’t do much to open doors for women in NASCAR’s three national series.
Now comes Hailie Deegan, a youngster who is so full of energy that she seems to be taylor-made for her primary sponsor, Monster Energy drinks. Deegan may well be able to take it to the next level. Deegan will have a chance to do just that in Friday’s ARCA Menard’s General Tire 150 at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
The eighteen-year-old Deegan is willing to drive and race aggressively, and that may set her apart from Danica Patrick. She has three ARCA West wins under her belt in the last two years. With each win came contact with the leader on the last lap of the race. Two of those times, the leader was her teammate.
“You have to bump or throw a block sometimes,” she said. “Even when it goes wrong, how many times has it worked? I think it’s a matter of picking and choosing your battles. You gotta do what you’ve gotta do to try to get a win. I have learned over the last two years situations I definitely could have handled better. I’m still learning how to flip that switch on and off. I want to make the most of every opportunity with the least amount of collateral damage. In every race you make smart moves and you take risks.”
Deegan is in no hurry to race at NASCAR’s Cup level. She’s still young and there is plenty of time to work her way up. “I don’t see why a girl couldn’t be successful in Cup racing. There’s no reason she couldn’t be.”