A Hailie Deegan Xfinity Series Deal Is Probably Inevitable if Toyota’s Big Move Is Any Indication
Gilliland fared best in the deal, for now, which Toyota needed to pursue because Kyle Busch Motorsports is in the process of flipping to Chevy for the 2023 season. By the time Silly Season is over, Deegan might just be the biggest winner even if she no longer fits into Gilliland’s plans.
David Gilliland Racing rebrands as Tricon Garage
With Kyle Busch and his truck team no longer under the manufacturer’s umbrella, Toyota Racing Development needed a place for its up-and-coming drivers next season. Toyota achieved it by completing the rumored deal with what’s the NASCAR equivalent of the least dirty shirt in the hamper.
David Gilliland Racing began fielding drivers in the truck series in 2018 but hasn’t fared higher in the standings than Tyler Ankrum’s eighth place in 2019. Still, Gilliland is experienced and committed to running multiple trucks, making him attractive when Toyota went shopping for a new affiliate.
Signaling the new direction as he switches from a three-year alliance with Ford, Gilliland announced he has rebranded his team as Tricon Garage, a unique moniker in all respects.
Tricon Garage announces a lineup that doesn’t include Hailie Deegan
David Gilliland Racing’s primary drivers this season have been Tanner Gray and Hailie Deegan, with DGR accommodating Stewart-Haas Racing by giving Ryan Preece roughly half a season in the team’s third truck.
When Tricon Garage debuts in February, it will be with four trucks. Brothers Tanner and Taylor Gray will join Corey Heim as full-time racers, and the team will use a revolving lineup in the fourth truck. Heim is a Toyota prospect who’ll come over from Kyle Busch Motorsports. As a side note, Taylor Gray won’t turn 18 until late in March, so he cannot drive on bigger tracks like Daytona, Atlanta, and Las Vegas until then.
Missing from that lineup is Deegan, 21, NASCAR’s best-known female driver. Deegan is a Ford prospect and a figure with reliable sponsorship money behind her, so the manufacturer is unlikely to let her slip away. Aside from Front Row Motorsports, though, there isn’t much of a Ford presence remaining in the third-tier series.
That doesn’t mean Deegan is out of options. She hasn’t distinguished herself in two seasons in the truck series, but Deegan has actively pursued opportunities in the Xfinity Series all year. She got her first taste in the Las Vegas playoff two weeks ago with SS-Greenlight Racing and finished a respectable 13th.
Ford will help Hailie Deegan figure out a path forward
Ford’s presence in the Xfinity Series isn’t substantially deeper than Toyota’s in the trucks series. SS-Greenlight would likely make room for Hailie Deegan to go full-time, but the organization doesn’t have as strong a bond with Ford as an outfit like Front Row Motorsports, s truck series team having pledged to find star Zane Smith some Xfinity rides in 2023.
Prospects of FRM going from zero to two cars by February seem slim without significant help from Ford. On the other hand, Stewart-Haas expanding from one car to two is both more plausible and more desirable for Deegan, a fan of Tony Stewart.
Even if her destination isn’t yet apparent, the odds of Ford letting both Taylor Gray and Deegan slip away in the same offseason are close to nil.
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