Let’s flash back to 2008, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Hendrick Motorsports as Kyle Busch exited.
Dale Jr. was coming in on a hot streak from DEI; all indications were he would contend for titles at Hendrick, NASCAR’s hottest team at the time.
Kyle Busch was a couple years into his time at Hendrick, and was young, brash, had promise, but was a handful to deal with.
Hendrick Motorsports chose Dale Jr. They let Kyle go off and sign with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Let me get this out of the way early: Kyle Busch is one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers, both now and in the overall history of the sport. As the King himself said, Kyle could have competed for wins in any era of the sport. He’s a wheelman to the core, with great natural instincts on how to handle a racecar. He’s a first-ballot lock for the Hall of Fame once he retires and becomes eligible.
His 200 wins are an impressive accomplishment and show he is a true talent, regardless of how you view him personally or what you think of his off-track antics.
But that’s where I stop. The endless adoration parade that’s likely to come this week is something I’ll sit out. And here’s why. Numbers do not lie.
Remember the name Hailie Deegan.
Just 17 years old, she earned her second career victory in the K&N Pro Series this week at the Las Vegas Dirt Track, and the win came via a thrilling last-lap pass. She now leads the points standings in the K&N Pro Series, the first female racer to do so.
She also made news this week by announcing she’ll run six races in the ARCA series this year for Venturini Motorsports, yet another opportunity for her to show she has the goods to make the leap to the big 3 NASCAR series.
What’s refreshing about Deegan is she’s not looking to move up just to move up. She wants to win and be strong at every level before she makes the next step, and at age 17 she has the time to do that.
With the talent she’s shown thus far, I foresee her doing well in ARCA, and being in the Truck series within a couple years. A good performance there, and the proper sponsorship, and moving up to Xfinity is likely.
Cup is a whole different ballgame, but if it takes Deegan until she’s 23 or 24 to make it that far (and I think she will eventually get to Cup), there’s still plenty of time for a lengthy career, and it will likely be in strong equipment if she continues to show the type of talent she’s shown so far in her young career.