TOLEDO, Ohio – Sixteen drivers have earned their first ARCA Menards Series victory at the series’ home track, Toledo Speedway.
Of those, three of them earned their way into victory lane in their series debut, including current NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship contender and recent ARCA winner at Talladega Superspeedway Todd Gilliland.
Hailie Deegan, from Temecula, Calif., will be making her series debut May 19 in the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 looking to become the fourth driver to win at Toledo in their first series start. Should she do it, she’d also become the first female to win an ARCA Menards Series race in the series’ 67-year history.
Deegan is the daughter of X Games star Brian Deegan. That alone is enough to generate buzz and excitement wherever she goes. Deegan is also the first female driver to win in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in more than 30 years. Deegan earned her first win last year at Meridian Speedway in Idaho and backed it up with her second victory in February at the Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Just like virtually every other second-generation athlete, Deegan is happy to have had doors opened by a recognizable last name but also wants to build a name of her own. While she enjoys many of the same activities that made her father an X Games superstar, she’s also happy to have found success in a field that’s completely different than freestyle motocross.
“My Dad has definitely taught me a lot when it comes to my training and my determination towards my goals,” said Deegan. “He’s always reminding me how hard you have to work in order to be successful and he’s right there by my side at the gym, at the race track, at test sessions and I know I’ll be leaning on him a lot as I start this next chapter of my racing career.”
With two K&N Pro Series wins on her resume, Deegan is on the radar screen of virtually every race team and sponsor in NASCAR’s national touring series. Her future is seemingly wide open, but the next step on the ladder is a partial schedule in the ARCA Menards Series.
A part of the Toyota Racing Development driver development program, Deegan has aligned with Venturini Motorsports for six starts in the ARCA Menards Series in 2019. The team started the season with three consecutive wins, at Daytona with Harrison Burton, and at Five Flags and Salem with Michael Self. Signing with one of the most successful teams in the series, with 53 wins since 1983, is reason enough to be excited but Deegan stands to benefit from the organization’s long record of success developing young drivers as well.
Current NASCAR drivers Alex Bowman, who replaced Dale Earnhardt, Jr. when he retired in 2018, and Erik Jones, who won his first Cup Series race at Daytona last July, got their start with Venturini Motorsports. Others like defending Cup Series champion Joey Logano and William Byron, ran limited schedules with the team but had success before moving on.
Developing young drivers and then seeing them go on to success in their career is a skill that team co-owner Billy Venturini takes tremendous pride in.
“Working alongside a group like TRD on driver development is incredible,” said Venturini. “Our team has had the opportunity to work with so many talented young drivers over the years, but to now be a part of the system to evaluate drivers in the TRD system as they move up the ranks is a great privilege for our whole team. Hailie has shown a lot of success thus far in her career and more importantly, she shows the determination and willingness to work hard that it takes to succeed in motorsports.”
Perhaps success at the ARCA level will allow Deegan to follow in the footsteps of others who have gone on to NASCAR success, like Bowman, Jones, Logano, and previous ARCA champions Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon, all of whom race on Sundays in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
But Deegan wants to blaze her own trail.