Corona, California (January 3, 2017) – Hailie Deegan enjoys being the first to reach a milestone.
The 16-year-old has done it twice in her young racing career, in 2013 as the first girl to win a championship (Jr 2 Karts) in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series presented by GEICO and again this year as the first female to win a Modified Kart title.
Deegan said the latest championship, won after a season-long battle with Trey Gibbs and Christopher Polvoorde, was a "really cool deal" and she has a couple more milestones in mind for 2017.
"I'm pretty sure I'm going to do a full season of Pro Lite (where no woman has won a title)," she said, "and I'm going to do some stock car stuff, I think a Super Late Model, and race the Whelen (All-American) series."
Deegan will race Pro Lite in a truck recently purchased from Brandon Arthur, this year's championship runner-up, and is in the process of finalizing sponsorship. Her stock car program hasn't been solidified yet, though, because she has to wait until mid-January to find out if she will be the first LOORRS driver of either gender to be chosen for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity development program.
The Temecula, California, resident has taken all the preliminary steps toward that goal. In October Deegan joined 16 other candidates for three days of on- and off-track evaluation at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida in hopes being chosen by Rev Racing for a season of racing in the K&N or Whelen series.
Deegan said she is "going to go stock car racing regardless," so while she waits for some news from the Diversity program she and dad Brian Deegan are making alternate plans and preparing. Just before Christmas she tested a Super Late Model at LoanMart Madera (California) Speedway and raced a Legends Car in Las Vegas.
Hailie's Pro Lite truck will be part of Deegan Racing's championship-winning off road program but they're looking for a home for the stock car effort.
"I don't think we're going to do it ourselves, definitely not. We don't know much about it," she said. "So, we're looking at who has the best teams now and who are the best manufacturers and we're trying to work out deals with a couple of them."
Deegan said the family also has a home in North Carolina and she anticipates doing most of her stock car racing on the East Coast because of the competition there, but for at least eight weekends she anticipates coming home to LOORRS.
If all the plans materialize there'll be a lot of demands on Deegan's time and a lot of sacrifices that don't have to be made by average teenagers, but she said it's the life she knows and wants to live.
"I think it just revolves around all of our lives, like forever, ever since the beginning," she said. "All I've seen my dad do is race so instantly that's the first thing I want to do. When doors open for me there's no reason I shouldn't and I love doing it.
"I know I have to give it up (a normal social life). But when you're at the track there's so many other people your age that you get to talk to and hang out with, and even when I did go to school (she's home-schooled now) all my friends were all at the track. It's like I can relate to people that race rather than just an average school kid. It's cool being able to be friends with other racers too.
"Eventually I want to make it to NASCAR, but I'll always come back to off road for the races and stuff because that's what I love. I know off road will always be there."
Deegan could reach more milestones in 2017, too. She was 16 in July and will get her driver's learner's permit in January. She won't get a license until at least next July, though, and by then she could have visited the winner's circle on pavement and off road.