Thursday night’s Star Nursery 100 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track provided the kind of action NASCAR always wants – and usually gets – from its 2019 K&N Pro Series West races. After being relegated to a ninth-place start due to pedal extension issues in the heat race, second-generation racer Hailie Deegan brought the fireworks with a last-lap pass of Jagger Jones for her second career K&N Pro Series West victory.
The 17-year-old from Temecula, Calif. followed Jones, 16, son of P.J. and grandson of legendary Parnelli Jones, past Derek Kraus with 31 laps remaining. She had started third after the lap 51 break and with new tires and some mid-race adjustments, Deegan was ready when the white flag flew to signify the final lap. Lapped traffic helped her dive inside Jones and clear him at the second turn as she sped to her first win of the new 2019 season.
“In the end, we wouldn’t have caught him if it weren’t for the lapped cars,” Deegan explained, “and they got in his way. If I was him, I’d be mad; really mad. But some people’s losses are other people’s wins and we ended up getting it done. I knew what we had to do to win. I knew it was going to come down to the last lap again and we made it happen.”
A member of the NASCAR Next diversity group, Deegan wasn’t terribly sure of her chances, starting from ninth before the feature race. Her car wasn’t handling well and this track, adjacent to both the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, wasn’t really prepped for her style of dirt-track racing.
“The line I was trying to run didn’t work for my car, so I had to move around and find which line worked,” Deegan said. “Once we found that, fixed the car, the car was great. The track was still icy and we still weren’t good, but it was better than everyone else.”
Jones recognized that Deegan “definitely had a little more speed at the end,” and wasn’t terribly upset with the lapped traffic that aided his competitor.
The Star Nursery 100 is scheduled for broadcast on NBCSN next Tuesday, March 5. The next K&N Pro Series West race takes place at Irwindale Speedway outside Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30. Hailie Deegan’s next outing is on March 16, where she joins father Brian and brother Hudson at on off-road race on the Glen Helen track north of Ontario, Calif.