Hailie Deegan had high expectations for 2020. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have changed what they look like. But it certainly hasn’t lowered them.
“I think it’s just going to make the development process a little bit harder,” Deegan said Wednesday on a Zoom teleconference. “I think it’s going to be a little bit harder on me and I’m going to have to really buckle down and focus on it even more than I already am. Really give it 110-percent effort every opportunity I get because I’m not getting as much as I was planning on.”
Practice has been limited in the ARCA Menards Series. For example, there’s only one 45-minute session at Toledo Speedway this Saturday for the Royal Truck & Trailer 200. Live pit stops were also eliminated altogether, opting for breaks instead.
While neither element is necessarily required to pull off a race, both would help a young driver — such as 19-year-old Deegan — looking to improve as a competitor. Those are the two areas Deegan thinks are vital to her advancement into the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, the next big career move.
“I didn’t have this in my plan,” Deegan said. “This wasn’t in my couple-year plan of stock-car racing, of trying to make it. This was something no one had in their plan, no one has ever been through before.
“It makes it very difficult, especially for a driver like me that doesn’t have as much experience as I want to have and needs more experience. You’re not getting that. It favors the driver that have been there forever.”
As of right now, Deegan does not have any Gander Truck Series events or bids set up for 2020 or 2021, respectively. Finances are all going toward her ARCA Menards Series ride, which is doing well this season. In the 14 races so far, she has steered the No. 4 DGR-Crosley Ford to three top-five and 12 top-10 showings; good for a 7.6 average finish. She’s currently ranked third in the points standings — even without a win.
Talks about making the leap haven’t begun because sponsors not only want to see how her seasons play out but also how NASCAR handles 2021 protocol. Right now, none of the national series are holding practice or qualifying. And it’s important both parties get the most out of the relationship.
Deegan’s timeline hasn’t changed, though, nor has it been delayed.
“I wouldn’t call it a lost year,” Deegan said. “I haven’t gotten everything out of it that I was planning on. But I think we’re making the best of it.”