Story By: ARCA RACING SERIES – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – When Hailie Deegan climbed into a sports car to make her IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race debut at Daytona International Speedway back in January, there wasn’t even a thought she’d ever be back on the course in a stock car.
But the ensuing COVID-19 Pandemic caused a number of schedule shifts, the most notable being the addition of the road course best known for being the Rolex 24 at Daytona weekend being added not only to the NASCAR national series calendar, but also to the ARCA Menards Series schedule.
So when the series takes the green flag on Friday (5 p.m., MAVTV / TrackPass / MRN) for the General Tire 100 at the DAYTONA Road Course, the 19-year-old from Temecula, California, will be armed with a little unexpected experience.
“It just happened to be in the luck of the draw for me,” said Deegan, who said she had three-plus days of practice at the track in advance of her sports car debut earlier this year. “I feel like I’m going to be more comfortable and make the most of the situation.”
The ARCA Menards Series will practice for an hour Friday (2-3 p.m.) to give the drivers a couple laps to shake out the cars before they turn them loose for the race.
Deegan estimated it will take some drivers a couple laps into the race to get fully comfortable with the configuration, and that’s where here here previous track time will be beneficial.
“The hardest thing about road courses is figuring out the track,” said Deegan. “That takes quite a few laps, quite a bit of time.
“It’s a big track. There’s a lot of markers and tricks to it. And I think I was able to get a lot of those out of the way in the IMSA car. So when I go on this track, I’ll feel more comfortable.”
Deegan said she’s also spent some time in the simulator to get a feel on how her No. 4 Monster Energy Ford will handle differently on the road course.
Deegan matched the mark for highest finishing female driver in ARCA Menards Series history with her runner-up finish at Daytona International Speedway in the season opener.
She’s recorded nine top 10s in 11 races and is coming off a sixth-place run at Michigan International Speedway. She’s fourth in the championship standings, 47 behind points leader Michael Self. She’s only six back of fellow Bounty Rookie of the Year candidate Drew Dollar.
The race will also be round six of 10 of the Sioux Chief Showdown, where Deegan is sixth in the standings.