Hailie Deegan: Meet the teen driving sensation set to take the NASCAR world by storm
It may seem on the surface that NASCAR is quite literally a male-dominated pursuit but try telling that to 18-year-old phenom Hailie Deegan, who looks set to become the next female driver on the circuit.
Deegan, who races for DGR-Crosley in the ARCA Menards Series, was pipped to the post by fellow driver Michael Self in Saturday's race at the Daytona International Speedway where she became the third woman to place second in an ARCA race, an oft-used feeder program into NASCAR.
Afterwards, a gleeful Deegan - who has been pursuing a career in stock car racing since switching from a dirt track to asphalt in 2016 - celebrated the achievement with her family on the pit road.
"Second is winning this weekend," said Deegan after the race. "I think winning the first race would have been a little too high of standards for us this season. Everything would have been downhill. So at least I have something to work toward."
Deegan's route into racing may well have been hastened by familial connections. Her father Brian is a well-known name on the freestyle Motocross circuit and is the most decorated freestyle rider in the history of the X Games, and it seems that the apple didn't fall particularly far from the tree.
She has already amassed a very respectable following of nearly 600,000 people on Instagram, where she posts photographs dedicated to her love of all things white-knuckle, namely racing and snowboarding. However, Hailie still has a way to go to eclipse her father's social media following which currently stands at over 800,000 on Instagram.
Until December, Deegan had been part of a swollen field of development drivers contracted to Toyota but she has since moved to Ford - and the change seems to have done her the world of good.
She has been handed a full-time ride with the DGR-Crosley team which, all going well, could lead to her admission to the NASCAR Truck Series later this year.
But whether her success is immediate or a little bit further down the track, her father is confident that she will take the world of stock car racing by storm.
"Her day will come," Brian Deegan said of his daughter. "She’s got momentum. The main thing with her is she had a lot of momentum at the beginning of last year. Once she gets momentum, it’s on. She doesn’t want to lose. She’ll work 18 hours a day. She’ll work at the gym, study tape. She’s serious. We're on a mission."
And as far as his daughter is concerned, this is a one-way mission.
"People have to keep in mind we are ARCA racing," she said. "We aren't Cup racing. We aren't Xfinity racing. Most of the people here are here to learn and eventually get to that level and work out the kinks at this level.
"I think I learned a lot of good takeaways from this race. Some things I could have tried and been more aggressive on, but everything I did in this race got us that second place finish."