Hailie Deegan Makes NASCAR History at Gateway

Hailie Deegan

Getty Hailie Deegan prepares for a race at Watkins Glen International.

First-year NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan turned in a strong performance on Friday, Aug. 20, at Gateway Motorsports Park. She finished seventh overall during a race defined by a power outage and a large wreck, making history in the process. Deegan became the first woman in NASCAR to lock up a top-10 finish in the Truck Series outside of Daytona International Speedway.

Deegan started the race 19th overall based on NASCAR’s formula that takes into account factors from the previous race on the schedule, as well as the team owner’s overall points. She proceeded to race in the top 20 throughout the evening before making a final push for her first career top-10 finish.

The Truck Series rookie appeared to be poised to finish 10th overall during the overtime race to the checkered flag at Gateway Motorsports Park. However, she moved up three spots after the No. 17 of Taylor Gray collided with the No. 40 of Ryan Truex, knocking them back in the pack.

Deegan Joined 3 Other Women to Finish Top 10 in Truck Series History

While Deegan is the only female driver to finish among the top 10 outside of Daytona International Speedway, she is actually the fourth to finish near the front of the pack during her Truck Series career. According to “Jayski,” Deegan also joins Jennifer Jo Cobb, Natalie Decker, and Angela Ruch.

Cobb was the first to set the mark, doing so during the season-opening race at Daytona in 2011. The driver-owner started 31st overall in the No. 10 Ford and avoided wrecks that sent 10 of her peers to the garage early. She turned in the best performance of her career and finished sixth overall behind Kyle Busch while Michael Waltrip headed to Victory Lane.

Ruch only started 18 races during her Truck Series career, but she joined Cobb in the history books during a wild race at Daytona. She kicked off the 2019 season with an eighth-place run in which she avoided the numerous wrecks that brought out a record 11 cautions. Ruch started 30th out of the 32-truck field and was only one of nine drivers that finished the race.

Decker was the latest female driver to claim a top-10 finish at Daytona, doing so to start the 2020 season. She suited up for Niece Motorsports during the NextEra Energy 250 and began the race 30th overall in the No. 44 Chevrolet. Like Cobb and Ruch before her, Decker avoided many incidents at the superspeedway and raced her way to a fifth-place finish — the highest-ever finish for a female driver in Truck Series history. Her outing still stands as the high-water mark, but Deegan could soon fight to surpass it.

Deegan Still Has Plenty of Room To Grow as a Competitor

The rookie entered her first full-time Truck Series season with one start on her resume — Kansas Speedway on Oct. 17, 2020. Deegan then proceeded to suit up for every race, the majority of which did not include practice sessions or qualifying laps.

Deegan has managed to finish every single race during the 2021 season, but she has also dealt with issues that kept her out of the top 10. She ended some races, such as those at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, multiple laps behind the field but continued to fight until she finally cracked the top 10.

“We had a lot of meetings just going into this race, going into the whole playoffs and everything,” Deegan told Fox Sports after the race. “Obviously, we’re not in it but just being around everything. We’re like, ‘hey, we’ve got to finish off the season strong.’

“We’ve had a rough year, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve had our good moments, we’ve had our not-so-good moments. And to be able to come out here and get a good, solid finish and to have something to build off these next couple races to end the season, it’s going to be huge for me.”

With the race at Gateway Motorsports Park complete, Deegan has limited opportunities to finish out the season strong. She will suit up once again on Sunday, Sept. 5, at Darlington Raceway. She will finish out the year with races at Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 16), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 24), Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30), and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 5).

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