Who’s got next?
That’d be Hailie Deegan, the youngest driver and only female of the current NASCAR Next class, named Wednesday to drive the No. 19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry full-time for K&N Pro Series West powerhouse team Bill McAnally Racing.
The 16-year-old from Temecula, California will challenge for the Rookie of the Year Award and overall title as she runs the full 15-race schedule in the West division of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, while also racing in select events in the East division.
Deegan joins BMR on the heels of the organization’s third straight series title and second straight with fellow Toyota development driver Todd Gilliland. The reigning champ will move up to join Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series for the 2018 season.
The announcement came after BMR hosted an audition of sorts in late 2017 in which Deegan’s talent shone brightly.
“Back a couple months ago, I did a test with BMR that Toyota set up and a couple girls went out there and a couple boys, too,” Deegan told NASCAR.com. “We just kind of drove the K&N cars out there and I ended up doing really well so Toyota put together a great deal for me for K&N for BMR. I’m really excited about it.
“It didn’t feel like an audition at the moment, but then a week later, I realized it was. But when I was there I thought they just wanted to practice since we’re out there but it ended up being like an audition and I ended up getting picked for it, which is really cool. That was a nice little confidence booster.”
Deegan, who began racing off-road trucks at the age of 8, has racing in her blood. The daughter of the most decorated freestyle motocross rider in history and an off-road champion himself in Brian Deegan, the up-and-comer has wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps for most of her life.
“I think (my dad) has been a pro to the whole situation of being a girl in racing and knowing the racing world,” she said. “There’s not too many girl racers out there, let alone girls who want to race or have dads who race. Kind of a total package thing where I get a lot of help from my dad. He’s been in the stock car racing world before.”
Deegan raced a full season of off-road trucks in 2017 — including four podium finishes — and added a handful of late model and super late model races to her plate as well. She had a pair of starts in the CARS Super Late Model Tour, with a best finish of 11th at Tri-County Motor Speedway.
With the path Toyota development stars have been paving over the past few years (see: Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, etc.), Deegan is hopeful to establish herself as the next rising driver to create a buzz.
It all starts with what she’s capable of on the track.
“I just want to be able to run up front. I’m definitely with the best team out there, hands down, with BMR and just the whole crew and everyone around me. I’m going to put in a lot of practice time, a lot of testing just to get seat time,” Deegan said. “That’s really critical for me right now. I just want to be able to run up front to show people that I can run up front.
“For sure (stock car racing is where I see my future). That’s where I’m pushing towards. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but me and my family are really excited to do it.”