Hailie Deegan’s move to AM Racing is one of the most interesting lower series moves of NASCAR Silly Season. Deegan is one of the few young drivers that Ford currently has in the lower series. However, Ford Performance’s Mark Rushbrook gave some very candid comments regarding both Deegan and how they value the lower-tier series of NASCAR.
What Ford Had to Say
Mark Rushbrook spoke to the media on Wednesday, with some focus on the new Cup Series body with the Next Gen car. However, Rushbrook also talked about Hailie Deegan making the jump up to the Xfinity Series.
Rusbrook came out and said that Deegan had not performed to the level they were hoping she would That’s not much of a surprise to anyone as she was the only ThorSport driver to miss the Playoffs in the Truck Series this season. Her teammate, Ben Rhodes, is in the Championship 4.
However, optimism was expressed in Deegan moving up to Xfinity. Rushbrook specifically mentioned car and driving styles, and how the Xfinity car with a new group around her could be a help to Deegan.
This is now an opportunity with [Deegan] advancing to Xfinity and to a new team. To have a different car, have different people around her. Driver styles suit different types of cars and different racing. Certainly, even though Truck is NASCAR and Xfinity is NASCAR and Cup is NASCAR, the cars and trucks are all different from each other.Mark Rushbrook
So, the Xfinity Series could suit her style better, and her solid run at Las Vegas in the series is evidence that could be the case. However, Ford also, by Rushbrook’s own admission does not commit as many resources to Xfinity as they do to Trucks.
We see a benefit to Trucks in terms of the marketing and driver development. Obviously, with Mustangs racing in Cup and the teams that we have, there is not as much value in Xfinity. And not even necessarily the need for a driver to go through Xfinity to get to Cup as you’ve seen with Todd Gilliland going from Trucks to Cup…In order of priority, we actually put Truck at a higher priority than we do Xfinity.Mark Rushbrook
While Rushbrook was adamant that he was happy with how Stewart-Haas Racing and AM Racing have done in the Xfinity Series, he admitted that Trucks are a higher priority to Xfinity. It would make sense given Ford’s Truck Series performance. Teams like Front Row Motorsports and ThorSport are perennial Championship contenders, and Ford only had one Xfinity Series Playoff driver this year in Cole Custer. So, is Deegan’s promotion to Xfinity really a promotion?
Is Hailie Deegan’s Promotion Really a Promotion?
If Ford values Trucks more than Xfinity, then Deegan moving to Xfinity means she is moving to a series that is a lesser priority to Ford. Now, Ford admitted that they feel Xfinity cars may suit her better, but, it also opens up a seat at a high-priority team for a new young driver. As we have documented, Ford is not brimming with prospects at the moment.
They want to have their top priority race team with their top prospects. Deegan has objectively not performed well enough to prove that she is their top prospect. Now, this does not mean they have given up on Deegan, but it does call into question how high of a priority she truly is.
Of course, no one knows yet who will be filling in that 13 ThorSport Truck for 2024, so, it may depend on who takes over that ride. It does not change the fact that Deegan is out of that ride. However, why would Ford value Trucks more than Xfinity aside from what Rushbrook mentioned?
How Does the Truck Series Car Compare to Cup? What Does it Mean for Deegan’s Cup Prospects?
Brennan Poole was recently discussing how the cars between the three series compare in the most recent episode of Power Hour. Poole said that the Truck, at least to him, drives more similarly to the Cup Series car than the Xfinity Series car does.
I’ve driven all three cars now. The Trucks are way closer to the Cup car than the Xfinity car is. It’s not even close. It almost messes [Brennan Poole] up going from the Cup car to the Xfinity car or the Xfinity car to the Cup car. They’re that drastically different.Brennan Poole
This is coming from someone who has years of experience in all three cars. If the Truck Series car drives closer to the Cup Series car, then it would be a no-brainer for Ford to value the Truck Series in terms of driver development over Xfinity. If Deegan is in Xfinity, then she may not be getting the reps that prepare her the same for Cup in terms of driving style.
If her driving style does not fit in Trucks well, then it may not translate well to Cup. That may call her Cup Series prospects into question. However, Poole also talks about how Xfinity race lengths are closer. to Cup, which could help Deegan.
Regardless, Deegan’s promotion to the Xfinity Series may not be quite the promotion that people may think it is. Will this be the next step she needs to improve her performance?