Hailie Deegan at Talladega Superspeedway. (HHP/Chris Owens)

Deegan: ‘We Were Right There’

Hailie Deegan’s maiden NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been nothing short of a struggle.

Entering Saturday’s event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, one top-15 finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the AM Racing driver’s lone bright spot through the first eight races of the season.

However, with Talladega being “the great equalizer” across the field, the 2.66-mile superspeedway presented Deegan and the team a stout opportunity to turn their season around. 

With a more conservative approach in the Ag-Pro 300, Deegan stayed out of trouble until it mattered most. 

 “The overall takeaway is that after qualifying we knew that we were in the position to have to just hang back all race,” Deegan said. “We didn’t have the single car speed to be able to qualify well, so we ended up starting pretty far back and we just rode pretty much all race.

“I know I’m really good when people start wrecking in front of me of getting out of the way and slowing down, so I made sure no one was behind me to drive through me. I just tried to avoid every caution. It’s kind of what I usually do here. That’s what I did here in trucks.”

A multi-car pileup at the front with two laps to go saw Deegan rise inside the top 15, with multiple more spots gained on the ensuing restart due to Shane van Gisbergen running out of fuel toward the front of the pack. 

“Then coming towards the end of the race everything worked out. We got a caution right there with two to go and we were right in it,” Deegan said. “We were right there and then everyone started running out of gas and we got another caution.”

On the final restart, Deegan restarted on the outside of the second row with a golden opportunity to pounce. However, with limited help from other drivers on the outside lane, Deegan faded to 12th by race’s end. 

“It was all falling in order and then we fired off on the final restart and I was pretty much the only car on the outside but didn’t get any help,” Deegan explained. 

“I got left off the drive completely. I tried to block a run from behind, but I knew if I kept trying to do that I was going to get wrecked, so, honestly, it’s a great finish for what we’ve had this year.”

Despite snagging her best Xfinity Series finish, Deegan was frustrated following the race due to the opportunity presented. 

“I think I punched the wall pretty hard when I got back to the hauler because I was so upset after the position we were in,” Deegan said. 

On the bright side, Deegan has scored a combined 58 points over the last three races, more than the previous six races combined.