Hailie Deegan hopeful she can prove herself at ThorSport: ‘I believe in myself’

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 29: Hailie Deegan, driver of the #1 Wastequip Ford, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series TSport 200 at the Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Hailie Deegan is well aware that 2023 will be the year she will need to shine.

After two seasons in the NASCAR Truck series with DGR Racing, the Californian will move to one of the top teams in the Series, ThorSport Racing. The team moves to Ford next season, and as a part of the Ford Performance driver development program, Deegan now has perhaps her best chance to run towards the front of the field, and maybe even score her first win.

“I think the last two seasons in trucks I’ve been trying to figure it out and kind of learning the ropes of the Truck Series,” Deegan said Thursday. “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. “

The people she will have around her starting next season includes the other two drivers at ThorSport: Three-time series champion, Matt Crafton, and the 2021 champion Ben Rhodes.

“I feel like coming here to ThorSport they obviously always had their pieces to the puzzle figured out and they have a lot of success in racing and in the Truck Series and have for a long time,” she said. “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 gonna have a lot more success together.”

Allison Thorson said the move to Ford was made even more appealing with Deegan involved.

“That was a really attractive opportunity, and we really feel like not only do we want to continue our success with returning drivers, but we really think we can offer Hailie something that she hasn’t been able to accomplish just yet, and that’s the same goals that we have with our other drivers,” Thorson said. “All in all, Ford Performance with Hailie being a new member of the family and our returning drivers we are just looking forward to keeping evolving, keep growing and keep setting new heights.”

The pressure then seems to be all on Deegan. But she isn’t worried.

“I’ve been used to pressure my whole life,” Deegan said.  “It’s kind of been on me from the start, so at the end of the day there’s pressure for a reason and I feel like if you can’t deal with the pressure, then you probably shouldn’t have that pressure on you.  I think going on there and doing the best I possibly can, working as hard as I possibly can for it and just knowing that myself, knowing that I’m putting in the full effort and doing everything that I’m capable of and everyone else sees that, that we’re bound to have more success.”

Her first full season with a top team will be one where Deegan hopes she can show the world she belongs at the elite levels of stock car racing.

“Yeah, I think this year is gonna be a real good show of that,” she said.  “I believe in myself.  I think that I have it and I think that we were just probably missing a few pieces to the puzzle because there are so many pieces to the puzzle.  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 and still just throughout the years 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.”

Greg Engle