Hailie Deegan came to Las Vegas intent on winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West season opener at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, and she did just that with a dramatic last-lap pass to capture the checkered flag in the Star Nursery 100 on Thursday night.
The 17-year-old from Temecula, California finished second in last year’s event and she was determined not to settle for the runner-up spot this time.
“For some reason, in the back of my mind I knew it was going to come down to the last lap again,” said Deegan, who is in her second season driving the Bill McAnally Racing No. 19 Monster Energy / NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry.
Deegan, tagged early in her off-road racing career as “the Dirt Princess,” charged hard in chasing down race leader Jagger Jones in the closing laps of the event to claim her second career series victory – with both wins featuring last-lap passes.
“Jagger was so far ahead and we had to hit our marks every single lap,” she said. “I made a pretty big mistake with like 20 to go. I was like ‘I can’t do that again if we’re going to get this win.’ I just kept hitting my marks, hitting my marks over, and the lappers helped out a little bit, and we got it done.
“I wasn’t going to come out here and get second again,” she said. “That was the last thing I was going to do.”
After finishing fourth in her qualifying heat race, Deegan and her BMR team made some changes that would allow her to charge from her eighth starting position.
“We did a lot of work after the heat race,” she said. “We knew we had a lot of work to do. We sat down and talked and figured it out.”
Deegan’s BMR teammate, Derek Kraus, started second on the grid and put the No. 16 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry into the lead early. He paced the field until a restart with just over 30 laps to go. Kraus slipped back, but was able to come away with a sixth-place finish.
BMR’s third driver, 19-year-old Brittney Zamora, ran a solid race in making her K&N West debut. The Kennewick, Washington driver started 16th and finished 11th in the No. 99 ENEOS / NAPA Filters Toyota Camry.
Kraus – a 17-year-old from Stratford, Wisconsin – and Deegan are both members of the NASCAR Next program that spotlights NASCAR’s emerging stars.
Thursday’s race, which marked the first time for the K&N West and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series to race at the same track on the same day, will be televised on NBCSN on March 5 at 3 p.m. PT.
BMR hosted a group of NAPA guests from Las Vegas NAPA stores at the event.
The next race on the K&N Pro Series West schedule will be the NAPA AUTO PARTS 150 at Southern California’s Irwindale Speedway on March 30.
Bill McAnally Racing PR