BRISTOL, Tenn. – Hailie Deegan has previous experience racing a truck on dirt, but nothing like what she’ll experience during Saturday night’s Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Deegan’s background is in short course off-road racing, specifically with the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, but those vehicles are built with jumps and hairpin turns in mind – not the steep high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway.
Despite that, Deegan found a rhythm and got up to speed quickly Friday on Bristol’s dirt-covered surface. She was third-quick in single-lap times in the opening round and found herself just off the 10-lap average set by dirt ace Kyle Larson during the Happy Hour practice session later in the evening.
Those factors bode well for Deegan, a development driver for Ford Performance and David Gilliland Racing who is chasing her first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in her rookie season.
“These definitely aren’t off-road trucks,” Deegan noted. “However, you’re driving a little bit like that out there, especially when the track has some grip like it did in the beginning of practice. You’re really throwing it in (to the corner) to try and get the truck to rotate, because it is gripped up early on. As the track slicked off, it was about finding the moisture and trying to keep it as straight as possible.
“Once the track gets like this [Saturday afternoon] – and I think my heat race [the third of four] will be like this if the rain holds off – finding any moisture possible is going to be key and those who know dirt racing and have that ability will be able to move forward. Hopefully, we can have a good day Saturday.”
Deegan’s best finish in five career Truck Series starts is 16th, earned last fall at Kansas Speedway during her debut. She’s a three-time winner in what is now known as the ARCA Menards Series West, including a victory on dirt at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in 2019.
She’s looking to equal or better the mark of Natalie Decker, who currently holds the record for the highest finish by a female driver in Truck Series history. Decker placed fifth in the 2020 Truck Series opener at Daytona (Fla.) Int’l Speedway.
Deegan will start on the pole of the third 15-lap heat race Saturday afternoon. Coverage of the Truck Series heats begins at 4:30 p.m. ET, live on FS1.