Ford Performance NASCAR: Hailie Deegan Zoom Call Transcript

NASCAR GANDER RV & OUTDOOR TRUCK SERIES
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2020
HAILIE DEEGAN MEDIA AVAILABILITY

Hailie Deegan, a member of the Ford Driver Development Program, made her NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series debut last weekend at Kansas Speedway and finished 16th. It was also announced that she will be running a full Truck Series schedule in 2021 with DGR-Crosley. Deegan was part of a Ford Zoom call this afternoon to talk about her season and expectations for the future.

HAILIE DEEGAN, Ford Development Driver, DGR-Crosley — WHAT HAS ALL OF THE FORD SUPPORT MEANT TO YOU SINCE JOINING THE DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM? “It’s been crazy how much support I’ve gotten from Ford and, honestly, it’s blown me away how invested they are in my career. You even saw there was one post that Tony Stewart did just explaining how great the Ford Performance development program is because it’s really very minimal people, but it’s very focused on them. It’s a full 110 percent effort. There’s nothing that they half do and that’s something I’ve been super appreciative for and, honestly, this whole year has been crazy. There’s been so much going on. Budgets have been cut from other sponsors. There’s been stuff where you thought you were gonna get extra money or deals you were working on that didn’t get finished. I know this happened to a lot of drivers, but Ford has had my back since Day One of our deal when it started and going into the development program and having the plans for what we were gonna do for the future, especially racing trucks next year, we got hit with a curveball of being later in the year and not doing any truck races because of other sponsor deals that didn’t get passed further than they were supposed to because of the COVID deal, which is just an aftermath of what’s going on with everything this year. Ford stepped up to the table for this race at Kansas because we had to qualify for next year to race trucks full-time, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without them, so I was super thankful for that We definitely aligned it well with the release of the F-150 and everything going on there. We made a really cool video piece two days before the truck race. They take a lot of initiative and that’s something that I’m proud of with that company and what I really appreciate is they’re constantly moving forward and trying to make it better.”


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WERE YOU EXPECTING THE DIFFERENCE IN COMPETITION LEVEL TO BE AS DRASTIC AS IT WAS GOING FROM ARCA TO TRUCKS? “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s hard to have expectations in something that you haven’t done before, especially in my stock car career. I haven’t been in a series where there’s that many competitive vehicles. In the ARCA Series there are about 7-10 on a regular basis that are really good cars and pretty good drivers with it, but going to the Truck Series there are about 20 really good trucks and drivers, so it makes it a lot tougher, a lot more competitive once you start getting to that front pack. It’s very intense and there is a lot of different racing styles and that’s something that I’m really glad I got to do a truck race this year before I go into it next year to be able to have expectations of what to see, so I know, ‘Hey, I’m good at this, but I can work on this.’ So I know what to prepare for.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOU’LL DO WITH POTENTIALLY LIMITED OR NO PRACTICE NEXT YEAR AS A ROOKIE? “I think having that kind of situation this year with ARCA is gonna be what has prepared me for that, and just finding different ways. If it’s gonna be like that next year, I’m glad I went through that with ARCA, so I know what to expect and during the offseason and while I’m away from the racetrack I can prepare as much as I can and know how to prepare for those things.”

HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE YOUR FIRST SEASON IN ARCA? “I think my first season in ARCA I had goals, obviously, and everything kind of had to change with the COVID deal and something that I valued a lot in my career is practice. I love practicing and I always get better throughout practice. I’m better at setting up cars when we have practice. It gives us more time, a lot more data to learn off of for the team and develop more, which that has gotten minimized because of the situations that we’re in, but it’s just honestly making the best of it. I think in ARCA we did make the best of it. Our equipment has gotten a lot better from where we started at the beginning of the year. We had some stuff to work on and it’s hard changing manufacturers for a team. It takes some time to get everything figured in place, but Ford has done a great job with the resources that they’ve given to the team to do that, and I think that’s why just in this season, after the break of racing, the time that we’ve had to actually race, there’s been so much development and I’ve seen just physically so much progress with the team. But I’d say we made the best of every situation. The competition is tough once you start getting in that top five in ARCA and we had some good finishes this year. We had a few second-place finishes. We’ve been close to wins a few times and we’ve had a lot of good runs. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, but moving into the Truck Series I think that’s where I’m gonna learn the most.”

WHAT ARE YOUR RACING PLANS BETWEEN NOW AND FEBRUARY? “I actually have one or two IMSA races that I’m gonna be a part of. One of them is at Laguna Seca and then I think the other one is Sebring, so if everything goes as planned, nothing is cancelled or anything, I’m planning on racing those two, so that’s gonna be a lot of fun. I’m excited to get back on road course racing. Those cars are so much fun to drive and then, honestly, getting everything ready for next year — simulator time and it’s kind of a tough place dealing with other sponsors. Obviously, I have my core deals done, but the other side sponsors and everything, getting all those little deals done. There is a lot of work that goes into the offseason.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY DIFFICULTY DEALING WITH WHAT YOU THINK YOUR DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE VERSUS WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK? “Obviously, everyone has their opinions, but I think it’s just surrounding yourself with supportive people who are on the same mindset as you. It’s hard to take in other people’s opinions and I don’t think it’s a good thing to do to take in other people’s opinions who aren’t involved in the situation, or that haven’t done it before. So I think you just have to really find the people that know truly what’s going on and what’s the right path to make it there.”

WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK HAVE YOU GOTTEN SINCE SATURDAY? “I’ve had a few drivers come up to me and just kind of like say, ‘Good job,’ and stuff, but, honestly, I don’t talk to a lot of drivers. I kind of just do my own thing. I’m really focused and not just kind of, I’m really focused on my racing. I keep my circle around of sponsors, my team and stuff. Obviously, I talk to my teammates a lot, but I’ve had a good group of people, whether it was my crew chief and spotter, Drew and Tim, and everyone that just gave me really good feedback of the race and everything that have been involved in situations of higher level racing that have seen things like, ‘Hey, you did really good at this. I think these are things we can get better at.’ I love people that give me criticism that know what’s going on and things I can actually work on. I want to know what I’m doing wrong. You can be honest. It’s not gonna hurt my feelings. I’d rather know because I’m not the best racer. I haven’t made it to the top level, so there are obviously things I can work on, so I’d rather know those things so I know how to prepare for them and how to get better at them.”

WHAT DOES SEEING YOUNG DRIVERS LIKE AUSTIN CINDRIC AND CHASE BRISCOE MOVING UP DO FOR YOU AS FAR AS SEEING A CHANCE TO MOVE UP IF YOU STICK WITH IT? “It makes me put a lot of faith and have a lot of faith in the Ford development program because you see it works, you see it pays off and you see there is success that comes from it, so I know I’m always gonna be put in the best positions and situations to be set up for a successful future. I have full faith in the Ford development program. You obviously see it works with Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, so I’m excited for the future.”

DID YOU GET TO SEE THE DUEL BETWEEN LOGANO AND HARVICK? WHAT DID YOU SEE WITH HOW THAT WENT? “I actually didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of it because I was flying, and I was at a few media events later that day, so I would have to go back and watch it more to kind of see. I’ve seen a few clips and stuff on the internet, but I didn’t get to watch the full race.”

HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE MENTAL ASPECT OF THIS SPORT AND BECOME A BETTER DRIVER IN THAT REGARD? “There’s so much that goes into it mentally if you’re really mentally tough because there’s a lot of criticism that comes from around you. There’s a lot of noise and that’s something you just kind of have to stay in your circle, stay with a good mindset of, ‘Hey, what are our goals?’ I’m very goal driven and I think it’s just accomplishing those goals and making those goals realistic and saying like, ‘Hey, if you’re in a situation and stuff like that with holding someone off in a race it’s just constantly being on top of your game.’ You can’t make mistakes and that’s something you have to be mentally tough for.”

HAVE YOU WORKED WITH ANYONE ON THAT ASPECT OR READ MATERIAL ABOUT IT? “I think it’s something I’ve just had to learn growing up. It’s like, ‘Hey, being in the racing world is tough.’ You have to be mentally tough. You have to really just stay on top of your game and just minimize mistakes and I think that comes with time. Obviously, you’re gonna make mistakes. You’ve got to learn from them, but that’s something I’ve just learned over time with surrounding myself with the right people.”

DO YOU THINK YOUR PARENTS COULD HAVE TAKEN YOU TO THIS LEVEL WITHOUT HELP FROM SPONSORS AND MANUFACTURERS? “No, I would never have been racing stock cars. Stock car racing is a very expensive sport. You saw that I never even got into stock car racing without the help of sponsors, whether it was NASCAR getting me in the Drive for Diversity Program. That was my initial start into it, but financially my parents obviously could never do it. Off-road racing, they got me started in off-road racing when I was eight, nine years old. Obviously, I didn’t have many sponsors back then, but as soon as I turned about 10 or 11 I was bringing in sponsor money and I had people that were involved with my dad helping sponsor stuff because they wanted to be involved with me, but over time I just racked up more sponsors and people who really want to be involved in the journey of it and everything that goes into it and not just be there in the end. But, no, I could never do it with just my parents.”

WHAT SKILL SET DID YOU ACQUIRE IN OFF ROAD RACING THAT YOU FEEL WILL BENEFIT YOU IN THE TRUCK SERIES? “In the ARCA Series you obviously have to be aggressive, but the aggression intensifies once you get to the Truck Series, so that is something that I feel like is gonna help is really being on top of your restart game. Someone who is really good at it is Sheldon Creed in the Truck Series. You see he’s always very aggressive, whether it works out or not it helps him at some points, and so I think that’s something I can use to my benefit.”

DO YOU HAVE A CREW CHIEF FOR NEXT YEAR? “Not yet. I would love to know too, but you kind of have to wait until the end of the season to kind of figure out where everyone’s standpoint is. I’m really glad I did that truck race because it helps a lot of who wants to work with me and people seeing that, ‘Hey, she’s not just gonna wreck the first lap out there.’ So that’s something I kind of had to prove to people first and so I think that will help getting more crew chiefs to want to work with me.”

WORKING WITH SETH AND THEN DREW DID YOU SENSE ANY DIFFERENCES WITH THOSE TWO? “I think everyone is different. Seth is a great crew chief. Drew is a great crew chief and I think they both have their experiences in different series, but their personalities are different. There are so many things that are different. No one is the same, so it’s kind of hard to compare two people.”

IS THERE ONE MOMENT FROM SATURDAY THAT WAS YOUR WELCOME TO NASCAR MOMENT? “What I really tried to work on that race was giving good feedback. I was trying to over-produce on information during the stops and stage breaks and everything like that. So that’s something I really tried to do my best on and I think that’s something that the crew chief and the spotter really appreciated.”

HOW HAS THE IMSA EXPERIENCE HELPED YOUR DEVELOPMENT? “I think that’s helping me now and it’s gonna help me in the future a lot because we obviously see there’s more likely more road courses that keep getting added to the schedule. For NASCAR racing they are intriguing races. They’re exciting for the fans, so I think NASCAR sees a value in bringing those road courses in, so I think the sooner I can prepare on those, the better driver it’s gonna make me for the future.”

DID YOU UTILIZE THE SIMULATOR BEFORE THE TRUCK RACE? “I was in that simulator for days. I had so many days scheduled in there because in my mindset you can’t do enough to prepare. If you have the open resources to do that, I want to take advantage of them and that’s an open resource that I have is the simulator, so I’m fully accepted into taking advantage of that.”

HAVE YOU TALKED TO SHAWNA ROBINSON AT ALL ABOUT ECLIPSING HER RECORD FOR THE HIGHEST FINISHING FEMALE IN ARCA HISTORY? “No, I haven’t talked to her.”

WHAT DOES BREAKING THAT RECORD MEAN TO YOU? “I think any record can be broken at any point, so I think it’s obviously gonna take time to break records for me in the future. It’s gonna take a lot of work and that’s something that I love to do is being able to break those records, but I’m excited for the road that we’re on and I think in the future breaking records is definitely a goal of mine, and I think with the people that I have behind me we’re able to do that.”


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