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Jim Utter

Hailie Deegan: Move to ThorSport is "perfect ideal situation"

After two years at David Gilliland Racing (now Tricon Garage), Deegan will move to ThorSport and compete in its No. 13 Ford next season.

She will have the benefit of being surrounded by experienced veteran drivers – including former Truck champions Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes – and a championship-winning crew chief in Rich Lushes.

“I think the last two seasons in trucks I’ve been trying to figure it out and kind of learning the ropes and I feel like I’ve good a grasp on it now and understand what you need to be successful as a driver, what the team needs to do for their part and the people you need to have around you,” Deegan, 21, said Thursday.

“There’s just a lot of pieces to the puzzle and I think maybe the last two years it was trying to find those pieces and trying to figure it out. I think that coming here is kind of making up those pieces to the puzzle that might have been lacking in the past and I think we’re going to have a lot more success together.”

In 46 career starts in Trucks, Deegan has three top-10 finishes. She finished a career-best sixth at Talladega Superspeedway this past season and was named the series’ most popular driver for the second consecutive year.

While Deegan finished third in the series standings in the ARCA Menards Series in 2020 and won three races in ARCA West, she has as yet been unable to find consistent success in Trucks.

Deegan believes the move to a more experienced, veteran organization could be key.

“I believe in myself. You get to a point in your development where you have to take that next step and I think ThorSport is a very established team and has a very established path of success,” she said.

“They’ve been so successful consistently even with all the changes in development in the Truck Series and with the trucks themselves, so I think that they’ve been such a good, consistent team that I feel this will be a good year for me.”

Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports, said the manufacturer remains committed to Deegan’s progress in NASCAR. She has been a Ford development driver since 2019.

“I think it’s a great opportunity with Hailie and seeing her progress these last three years with her and to watch what she’s going to be able to do with the equipment and people (at ThorSport),” Rushbrook said. “We’re really excited to have that in 2023.

“Watching that maturity of Hailie in terms of how she evaluates a car or a truck on the race track, can break it down and articulate it back to her crew chief and team to set the direction the car needs to go, that I think has advanced significantly both on the track and when she’s working in the simulator with the team as well.

“That’s awesome to see and a really important part of what a race driver needs to develop and then it’s the race craft on the track, which we’re seeing that develop as well.”

While Deegan remains focused on improved performance in Trucks, she and Rushbrook said they hope to continue to look for opportunities for her to compete in the Xfinity Series.

Deegan made her Xfinity debut this past season at Las Vegas with SS Greenlight Racing and finished 13th.

“I think that being able to go and do a few Xfinity races would definitely be awesome,” Deegan said. “It just depends on funding and sponsors and kind of what’s going on and what comes to the table throughout the year that could decide those Xfinity races.”

Deegan said she saw the chance to move to ThorSport and work with Lushes as “a dream come true.”

“I was so happy, so excited and just so positive when it came to the outlook about it. If everything is right and all those pieces to the puzzle are right and everything kind of makes up the perfect ideal situation for me, that’s what I want,” she said.

“I don’t want to be looking at it like, ‘Man, I wish I had this. I wish I was able to get this.’ If I have everything that I feel I need, that just motivates me to work harder and really do everything that I possibly can and go out there and try to maximize everything on the track.”

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