ROSSBURG, Ohio – A promising night in the Camping World SRX Series race at Eldora Speedway turned to complete disaster within minutes of beginning on Thursday night (Aug. 10) — yet one driver overcame it: Hailie Deegan.
On lap 9 of the first heat, Austin Dillon, making his SRX debut, lost his radiator hose and slid straight into the outside wall. Drivers were unable to stop in time due to the slick dirt and piled into Dillon and other drivers in one of the biggest crashes in SRX history.
Six drivers were involved, including Dillon, Chase Briscoe (another debutant), Matt Kenseth, Tony Kanaan, defending SRX champion Marco Andretti and Deegan. The race was red-flagged to clean up the mess and haul the wrecked race cars away.
“When it happened, I was immediately right behind him,” Deegan told Frontstretch. “Nothing I could do in that situation. That’s the first time that’s happened to me, where someone’s blown up directly in front of me.”
Deegan’s racecar was the most torn up of any involved in the accident.
In the end, Kanaan and Dillon were completely finished for the night, and Briscoe wasn’t able to get back on track until over halfway through the main event after extensive repairs to his car.
Andretti and Deegan were placed in backup cars. With limited inventory of backup cars available, those two were prioritized over Dillon and Kanaan as Andretti and Deegan are running full time for the SRX championship.
Deegan in particular showed solid speed, bringing her backup car home in the runner-up position — matching a career-best for the 22-year-old in the series. Coincidentally, Deegan also finished second at another dirt track, Knoxville Raceway back in 2021.
“I was able to get in this car, tune on it a little bit after running that heat race in between the main,” Deegan said. “And we were able to make it really good to my liking, and we were able to go out there and finish second.”
After a series of late cautions, Deegan was consistently able to clear herself for second over eventual third-place finisher Ryan Newman. Despite being able to hang with race-winner Tony Stewart for a lap or so, Deegan was unable to put up a real challenge for the win.
“I would’ve had to have moved him in some way, shape or form,” Deegan said. “I don’t like racing someone like that, especially Tony. He’s probably not someone I’ll ever race like that. So I kind of knew we were racing for second tonight, which I’m OK with.”
Despite having a flawless night — becoming the first SRX driver to sweep both heats, let alone the race win too — Stewart conversely said that he had to make sure he hit his marks, lest Deegan be able to take advantage of a mistake.
“When Hailie Deegan gets to second in a dirt race, you better be on your toes,” Stewart told Frontstretch. “Because if you make a mistake, she’s going to pounce.”
Deegan has shown that she is not afraid to be aggressive for the win if need be, especially on the dirt. Deegan won her second career K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Menards Series West) race on the dirt bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after executing an aggressive last-lap pass on Jagger Jones.
Deegan believes a finish like this gives her confidence in whatever she steps behind the wheel of, whether its an SRX car, or her truck in the Craftsman Truck Series in which she competes full time.
“It’s so easy to get in a rut of spiraling down,” Deegan said. “I see the way my results have been going, and I don’t want to keep it like that. I want it to turn around, I want to get better, I want to improve.”
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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