DAYTONA - Hailie Deegan ran up front the entire 80-lap race to earn her second-place finish racing in the Monster Energy Ford Fusion. The 18-year-old driver also earned herself rookie of the race.
HAILIE DEEGAN, No. 4 Monster Energy Ford Fusion (Finished 2nd)
DID YOU FEEL LIKE THERE WAS ANYTHING YOU COULD DO AT THE END TO GET AROUND MICHAEL FOR THE WIN OR NO?
“Pretty much at the end there, all I wanted to do was finish. My goal for this race was top three to top-five was a victory for me. First of all, I wanted it to go green from that last caution, I was good with third, third was good. Then we had that caution and it was like, ‘Oh my God, Michael is going to take the top.’ I knew he would get help behind him. I told my spotter on the radio, ‘Think of all the times I have let Michael get past me and stuff when he was racing for the championship last year.’ I told them I would push them and help them win. I was totally fine finishing second. I wasn’t going to try to do anything to Michael. It is a long season and I have to race against these guys week in and week out. It is best to stay on good terms with them.”
BUT IT IS DAYTONA:
“I know. I will say that one thing I regret from the past two seasons was making more enemies than I should have. Carrying more grudges than I should have. That is something this season, especially coming to the ARCA Series and a lot of new drivers, I want to stay away from that and have people on my side so that when I do get in situations like where Michael is and we can help each other, it gets him a victory and me a good finish and we are both happy. That was really my goal. Second is really a win to me this weekend. Winning the first race would have maybe been a little too high of standards for the rest of the season. Everything would have been downhill. This gives me something to still work towards.”
YOU GET TO DO MORE SUPERSPEEDWAY RACING IN APRIL AT TALLADEGA WITH DRAFTING AND THIS TYPE OF RACING. WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO WORK ON GOING TO THAT RACE THAT CAN HELP YOU GET TO VICTORY LANE?
“I think there is always room for improvement and room for learning. I think we could try something a little bit more if I had Tanner (Gray) with me to push me from behind. I know he had a problem. There wasn’t much we could do in our situation. I think at Talladega I am still going to kind of go over everything and try to learn as much as I can from this race. Every single race I have learned something new.”
THE PROGRESSION OF YOU LEARNING HOW TO PACK RACE AND DRAFT, YOU HAD CHALLENGES EARLY AND WERE TOLD NOT TO PUSH IN THE TRI-OVAL AND THEN THE INCIDENT OFF TURN 4 AND THE DECISION MAKING IN THE END. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE LEARNING THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
“There were moments where I thought, ‘God, I shouldn’t have done that.’ And there were moments when it was like, ‘Okay, that is good.’ People have to keep in mind we are ARCA racing. We aren’t Cup racing. We aren’t XFINITY racing. Most of the people here are here to learn and eventually get to that level and work out the kinks at this level. I think I learned a lot of good takeaways from this race. Some things I could have tried and been more aggressive on, but everything I did in this race got us that second place finish.”
TRYING TO AVOID THE GRUDGES THAT WERE HELD AGAINST YOU, WHAT WENT INTO THAT? WERE YOU TOLD TO DO THAT?
“That was self-inflicted. It bit me more races than it should have. So this season I want to keep everyone on good terms, help each other and get good finishes.”
GIVEN THE TEST IN JANUARY, TEST AND RACE AT THE 24 HOURS AND EVEN THE PRACTICE DOWN HERE, WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT REALLY GOT YOU READY FOR ACTUALLY BEING IN THE RACE? HOW MUCH DIFFERENT WAS IT FROM ALL OF THE STEPS THAT YOU HAD LEADING UP TO IT?
“I think the biggest thing that helped was practice yesterday. Being in that six and seven car draft that we had and being able to run up on people and feel how the runs were and how the car settled, that was the biggest learning thing I had. It was good on the simulator to get comfortable. It was more visualizations of what you see around and your perspective of everything, the simulator helps with that. But the practice was the biggest help for me.”
WERE YOU CONTENT TO HUNKER DOWN IN SECOND KNOWING THAT DOLLAR WAS COMING IF YOU TRIED TO MAKE A MOVE?
“If Thad could have gotten to me it would have been a different story. I think we would have been more risky. Knowing Drew was behind me and he would help out Michael, I couldn’t really make any crazy moves, nor was I going to. I just promised him that if he came down on the bottom I would help him win.”
DAVID GILLILAND WAS PRETTY SPORTY BACK IN THE DAY, DID HE GIVE YOU ANY ADVICE AND WHAT DID HE SAY TO YOU AFTER THE RACE?
“On the radio he was on there during the race saying stuff that I could do better, stuff that I was doing good. He said I was doing really good on the restarts, which is something that I don't have a bunch of big track restart experience. They are faster and the gearing is different and you have to work through those things. David definitely was motivating me. He is always super positive and upbeat and hyping you up to make sure your positivity is up there.”
WITH YOU NOW BEING IN THE FORD DRIVER DEVELOPMENT DRIVER PROGRAM, WERE THERE ANY OTHER FORD DRIVERS THAT GAVE YOU ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR TODAY?
“I have been asking a lot of the IMSA teammates, especially Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. They have been helping me a lot and picking their brain on everything. Knowing that David has raced before on the Cup Series, he has all the knowledge that the other guys have so it is easier to talk to David. I am really comfortable around David. It is easy to get information out of him and he really wants to help because I am racing for him.”
A LOT OF THE TRACKS YOU WILL RUN ON MOVING FORWARD WILL BE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, SO WHAT DO YOU TAKE OUT OF HERE, OR IS IT JUST A BIG ENOUGH THING TO BE FEELING GOOD AFTER THE FIRST RACE
“I think having a good race, no wrecks, nothing negative, can keep the season up-beat. I feel like the first race sets the tone for the season. Having a good first race can help keep the ball rolling and help the guys at the shop. When you are on a nice, positive, high level you bounce that off each other and the work ethic and it just helps for the rest of the year.”
YOU HAVE BEEN IN THE SPOTLIGHT FOR SO LONG THAT IT IS SECOND NATURE BUT A LOT OF FEMALE DRIVERS LOOK TO YOU AS THE NEXT BEST HOPE TO KIND OF BREAK THROUGH THE CEILING AND HAVE GREAT SUCCESS. WHAT IS THAT LIKE BEING 18 YEARS OLD AND HAVING OTHER WOMEN LOOKING TOWARD YOU TO BE A PIONEER IN A SENSE?
“That is always cool having little girls come up to me and say they want to be a race car driver one day. That motivates me more because you know what you are doing is right and all the work you are putting in is worth something. Going back to the off-road races, a little girl bought that car. I don't have to help her but going to the track I always go up to her and give her information and even get on the radio with her. Little things to help the sport. Try to bring the sport to a higher level.”
DID YOU HAVE ANY CLOSE CALLS OUT THERE? ANY SCARY MOMENTS?
“Yeah, I had a few. There were some times -- it is hard though because I am still learning and I am going to make mistakes and get a little aggressive sometimes trying to make a position. Trying to run up on people and get good runs off corners. Sometimes the cars get lighter than they should and it gets sketchy and you are reacting to what someone else does but people are reacting to what you are doing and there is a domino effect. There are good takeaways and things I will leave behind at this race too.”
WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STOP FROM HERE? WHAT DO YOU DO FROM HERE NOW THAT YOU FINISHED SECOND AT DAYTONA?
“I think it is just get ready for the next race. Start over. Re-baseline. I think the next race is Phoenix. I am definitely going to be on the sim a lot and watching footage and going over everything I need to for there. I have raced at Phoenix before, so I have an idea. I love Phoenix. Phoenix will be a fun race. We have a new title sponsor for the car there and I would love to have a good run there.”
WHO WAS YOUR SPOTTER TONIGHT AND HOW MUCH DID HE HELP YOU
“Eric Holmes spots for me. He has won a few championships on the K&N West side. He spotted me last year. He spotted Todd Gilliland in the trucks a little and Stewart Friesen. He has spotted quite a bit at the superspeedways and he understands it. He gives me a lot of information which is something that I love. I need a lot of information during a race. Sometimes I will key up and be like, ‘Are you guys there?’ He does everything I need him to.”
IF TANNER HADN’T FALLEN OUT, DID YOU GUYS MAYBE HAVE A PLAN TO HOOK UP AND DRAFT AND TRY TO WORK YOUR WAY TO THE LEAD?
“Yeah, for sure. Or even if Thad was right there behind me it could have changed the results. It could have diced it up a little bit having a teammate with me. You can’t make moves by yourself. Especially with another Venturini car behind me, I knew it wouldn’t work in my favor.”