Hailie Deegan on Dale Jr. Download: ‘I’m a racer, not a model’

Jerry Bonkowski
NBC Sports

Hailie Deegan is fast on her way to becoming a household name in NASCAR racing. The K&N Series star has won two races this season (plus one in her rookie campaign last year) and her name and talent continue to draw attention in the sport.

The Southern California native appeared on this week’s Dale Jr. Download with Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the show airs today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN – and showed maturity above her 17 years of age, both as a race car driver and observer of the sport.

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One of the biggest surprises during the podcast was when Deegan was asked by Dale Jr. who are some of the drivers she tries to pattern her own racing style.

“Watching a lot of old footage, it’s been your dad,” Deegan told Dale Jr. about his father, Dale Earnhardt. “A lot of it, just watching those old races, I love the aggressive drivers. I like Kyle Busch, I love his driving style. He might not have the most positivity off the track, but I do like his driving style.

“You see him at some of the tracks and just his lines he runs are just crazy, the mad momentum he’s able to build at some of these tracks. Watching him in the Trucks Series just blows my mind. When you think of the heavy hitters like Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, the guys that have been there for a long time, you think they’re the best, you can’t get any better than that, and he goes out there and just whoops them all and you’re like how did he do that? How did he come from all the way in the back to where he’s leading by five seconds?

“It’s just stuff that doesn’t happen, he can do. He’s one guy I look up to where I want to have his driving style.”

The teen driver has not only built her reputation and platform on the race track, but also off-track as well, particularly with a very savvy use of social media that has attracted nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter, where she proclaims “Not your typical 17yr old girl.” She also has 425,000 followers on Instagram and more than 100,000 likes on her Facebook page.

“I love social media,” Deegan said. “I think people in NASCAR don’t use it enough and there’s so much you can do with it. There’s this platform where you don’t need announcers telling the story. You can do it yourself. If you want to state your opinion if somebody’s wrong, you can do it on social media.”

Other highlights that Deegan will cover in today’s Dale Jr. Download on NBCSN:

* On how she wants to be recognized as a race car driver, not just a female driver: “I would use the female card more if I wasn’t winning. I just want to win. I want it all to be on the track. … I take every race like my ride is on the line, like it’s my last. I don’t get sponsors when I finish second. My sponsors aren’t happy when I finish second. They’re happy when I win.”

* Deegan also notes that “In the end, I’m a racer, I’m not a model, obviously. I lost about a foot of my height for that. And in the end, I’m not trying to be one. I’m trying to be a real person. Try to be a racer. You don’t see Jimmie Johnson out here modeling, you don’t see Kevin Harvick modeling, so why should I be if I’m trying to be an upcoming racer trying to make it in this world.”

* Deegan hopes to make her NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut either this year or next – and already has a 2020 race at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in her sites: “I really want to race Eldora next year. I don’t want to make the mistake. I feel like I have one shot personally at this and to be a heavy hitter. I want to be the best I possibly can be and not think I should have spent a couple more races or did a couple more tests. I don’t want to have any regrets. When I go, I want to be sure I’m ready. I think Eldora would be a good place to go to next year, for sure.”

For more, tune in to the Dale Jr. Download at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Also check out the full Dale Jr. Download podcast at http://www.dalejr.com/radio/tdjd/


 

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