Little girls have been without a female driver to root for at NASCAR’s top level since Danica Patrick left the sport at the end of last season. But another one could be on the way.
Hailie Deegan, 17, made history Saturday night with her victory in the NAPA Auto Parts/Idaho 208 at Meridian Speedway, making her the first female driver to win a race in the 64-year history of the K&N Pro Series.
“This is the best day of my life right here,” Deegan said in victory lane, via a NASCAR news release. “It doesn’t get any better than this. People don’t understand how many days, how many hours I’ve put into this, how much work I’ve done to get to this moment.
“It’s just amazing. This is the happiest day of my life. We did it.”
The K&N Pro Series often is a regional feeder for NASCAR’s national series, having been the launching pad for many drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field. Deegan runs full-time in the K&N Pro Series West, which dates to the formation of the Pacific Coast Late Model Series in 1954.
Deegan used a last-lap pass on teammate Cole Rouse to earn the win, but it wasn’t without controversy. Rouse complained that his Bill McNally Racing teammate created contact in Turn 1 that pushed him out of the lead.
Clean or not, Deegan’s win continued a strong rookie campaign for the Temecula, Calif., native. Her previous career-best finish was second, which she’d done twice, tying her for the then-highest ever finish by a woman in the East or West. Earlier this season, she also became the first female racer to claim the pole for a K&N Series race.
With five top-fives and 10 top-10s in 12 starts, Deegan also now holds the West lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
Thumbnail photo via Loren Orr/NASCAR