LAS VEGAS – In her career debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Hailie Deegan impressed by bringing her No. 07 Ford home in 13th position Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The 21-year-old Deegan, who competes full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, “learned so much” in a the drama-free race, as she finished ahead of the like of Jeremy Clements, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeb Burton, Riley Herbst and playoff driver AJ Allmendinger, whose day was ruined after a late pit stop due to loose wheels.
Deegan finished on the lead lap, something she’s done only 11 times in 21 Truck Series starts this season.
“It was awesome. It was so much fun. It was just a great experience,” Deegan told reporters on pit road afterward. “I wanted out of today was a good, clean race, to be able to make all the laps and really just take in as much information as I possibly could. And we were able to do that. guys gave me a great car and able do something with it.”
Deegan made the start for SS Greenlight Racing, through her car was fully prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing. Herbst, who drives SHR’s full-time Xfinity entry, placed 18th, one lap down.
Deegan, who has three top 10s in her two full-time Truck Series seasons, had made it a point to make her Xfinity debut on a 1.5-mile track like Las Vegas.
Though she can’t quite explain why, she feels more comfortable when racing on intermediates.
“I feel like it was just something that when I was starting, I was able to excel quicker than anything else.,” Deegan said. “I was like instantly comfortable when I was able to run a mile-and-a-half, maybe it’s because my first truck start was there at Kansas (Speedway) and I was able to like learn all my information off of that. But I just like mile-and-a-halfs for some reason.”
Deegan also indicated the Xfinity Series was inherently better than the Truck Series when it came to her skill set.
“I think the truck stuff is very, very dependent on equipment because there’s a lot of mile-and-half tracks you go to where you’re wide open in qualifying, almost wide ope in the race, wide open for 20 laps there,” Deegan said. “It becomes very dependent on equipment when the racing is like that. Xfinity cars, you can crank out of it, you can dump out of the gas, get back in it, use the brake a little bit, be able to change from front to rear brake and do your stuff to be able to make it better in the car. And I feel like there’s just so much more potential to do more with a car like that. Whereas, when you have to pull the wide open there’s almost nothing you can do.”