Nothing about Hailie Deegan’s rise in the motorsports world is normal. The young prodigy has been racing for nearly a decade and is already becoming one of the most notable drivers. Still an up-and-comer, the 19-year-old displays confidence that not only propels her above the competition but also lands her in hot water occasionally.
But according to Deegan, that’s how to get ahead of the pack.
Who is Hailie Deegan?
According to the official Hailie Deegan website, she was born in Temecula, California, in July 2001. Deegan participated in her first race at just 8 years old and quickly flew up the youth circuit ranks. She won championships in 2013, 2015, and 2016, all before she was 15 years old. The up-and-comer faced off against seasoned professionals and became the first youth to win the Driver of the Year award in 2016.
After making it on smaller circuits, Deegan joined the NASCAR family in 2018 as part of the K&N Pro Series West. Soon she recorded her first win at Meridian Speedway in Idaho. In 2020, she joined the ARCA Menard’s circuit while driving a Mustang GT4. Although she has yet to reach the biggest stage, the young driver isn’t 20 and is already turning heads — for better and for worse.
In a post-Danica Patrick world, Deegan might be just what NASCAR needs.
Deegan’s young career is not without controversy. One of her most common criticisms is her aggressive driving style. On the one hand, it has gotten her to where she is. But on the other hand, it can sometimes land her in hot water. Her aggressiveness went on full display in recent months. Deegan made headlines amid the pandemic when a podcast revealed she believed it was a hoax.
Furthermore, in the first days of 2021, she found herself in another controversy after getting caught using an ableist slur during an iRacing stream on Twitch, CBS Sports reported. The racing conglomerate required her to undergo sensitivity training. One would hope Deegan would learn the power of her words as a famous person, but the criticisms do not stop and end on the racetrack.
NASCAR is not for the faint of heart. As exciting as it is, it’s also hazardous. Hailie Deegan has already found herself in hot water. During one 2019 race, she made headlines after causing teammate Derek Kraus to crash after bumping into him on the home stretch. But rather than take responsibility, Deegan has repeatedly defended her actions. She discussed this with Sports Illustrated.
“That’s how racing is. If you’re not going to swing at, you’re going to get swung at no matter what,” Deegan said in the interview. “I think it’s just how you take it and how you go back at it. And I think there’s a lot of controversy there. But NASCAR’s based off controversy. That’s what it’s about. After that race, we definitely … didn’t have conversations for a little while. But we’re back [to being] cool now.”
This echoed statements she had already made, claiming that while she wants to work for her team, she also wants to win.
“You don’t have any friends when you’re on the track,” Deegan said of her style in an interview with NBC Sports. “Racing is competitive. They’re like frenemies. Everyone is there … to make it in the top series. You’re all competing for those positions, and it’s not like everyone will get one.”
Deegan is still young and has a lot to learn about her conduct on and off the track. Her competitive drive could be what makes her the next superstar in a sport that’s often decried for its lack of diversity, Racer reports. But it could also be what prevents her from advancing to the next level.