Need any more proof that Hailie Deegan is the real deal?
On Thursday night, Deegan opened the 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season by winning the Star Nursery 100, the series’ return to The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After chasing down leader Jagger Jones, who was caught in lapped traffic, Deegan slid under Jones in Turn 2 to take the lead, then withstood a tap to her rear bumper in the final corner to hold on for the win.
The only lap she led was the lap that mattered most.
Deegan already accomplished a first as a KNPSW rookie last year, becoming the first woman in series history to win a race when she took the checkered flag at Meridian Speedway in Idaho. That win came just after the series’ first-ever visit to the LVMS dirt oval, as well as its first dirt event since 1979. Deegan came tantalizingly close to her first win last fall in Nevada, winning the pole and her heat race before finishing second in the main event and closing the deal in Idaho—also by making a last-lap pass.
But now, she’s also the first woman in series history to lead the point standings. It’s an impressive feat considering the talent that has come out of the series in the past, which includes NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick (who has praised her in the past), NASCAR Hall of Fame member Ron Hornaday, and three generations of Gillilands—1997 series champion Butch, 2004 Rookie of the Year David, and two-time series champion Todd. It’s even more impressive considering that Thursday marked the first time that the KNPSW field had run with General Tire, the series’ new official tire partner.
But not much has fazed the 17-year-old Deegan in her racing career thus far. That much is no surprise, considering that her father is freestyle motocross legend, X Games rallycross gold medalist, and off-road truck racing champion Brian Deegan. But where many second-generation drivers have faltered, Deegan has made the most of her opportunities every step of the way.
Six years ago, she became the first female driver to win a championship in Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series history when she earned the 2013 Junior 2 Kart crown. She later won back-to-back Modified Kart titles, taking the 2015 Regional and 2016 National championships before moving up to a Pro Lite truck. That inspired a move to stock car racing, first in Legends cars with Rev Racing, and full-time in NASCAR with Bill McAnally Racing last year. Deegan earned one win, five top-fives, and 12 top-10s in 14 races last year to take fifth in the championship.
Deegan’s goal for 2019 is simple: win the KNPSW title and continue moving up the NASCAR ladder. With a few more performances like this one, it’ll be no surprise to see her at stock car racing’s highest level sooner than later.