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Hailie Deegan finished last for the first time in her ARCA Menards Series career in Sunday’s Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 at Toledo Speedway when her #55 Toyota Racing Development 40th Anniversary Toyota crashed out after completing 29 of 152 laps. The finish came in her series debut.
Deegan has caught the NASCAR world's attention the past twelve months, having won her first NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at Meridian Speedway in Idaho last August, then followed that up with another win on the Las Vegas dirt this spring. Besides those two, however, Deegan has seen less success. Sure, her West results many times were in the back half of the top ten, but when matched up against K&N East fields, those results have topped out at tenth. Many viewed her upcoming six-race ARCA slate with the series best team in Venturini Motorsports as a way to prove her worth. Granted, rarely are debuts easy, but both in practice and qualifying, Deegan was last of the 12 well-funded cars at Toledo this weekend. All evaluations, however, will have to wait until at least after her next start at Pocono next month.
An even 20 cars showed up on the entry list, with Deegan’s debut in the Venturini Motorsports #55 headlining the stories for the weekend. As usual, ARCA’s short track crew came out in full force, going for their "championship within a championship." Chandler Smith, Ty Gibbs, Sam Mayer, Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim continued their pursuit of the full Sioux Chief Short Track Challenge, while Tim Richmond, Alex Clubb and Eric Caudell continued their partial schedules. Rick Clifton and Richard Doheny filled out the #11 and #1 cars for Fast Track Racing, and Mike Basham returned to the #69 for Kimmel Racing.
After the first practice concluded, the car count was down to eighteen: Caudell did not make the trip to Ohio, and Brad Smith did not take the track either. Smith later posted on Twitter that engine complications from the previous contest at Nashville kept the team out of this race. It was the first race that Smith did not take the track for since this very same event four years ago, after running the first five events of the season for James Hylton before turning the car over to Rick Clifton and later James Swanson. As for the cars that took the track, Clifton was slowest, turning a lap of just over 18.5 seconds. He managed to slice about a tenth of a second off of his lap time for qualifying but remained at the bottom of the speed charts, leaving the #11 to line up last on Sunday with no post-qualifying penalties assessed.
Breaking with recent trend, this ARCA Menards Series race had all cars complete more than ten laps. The trio of Clifton, Doheny and Basham were near the tail of the field on lap 30 when a stack-up occurred in the back half of the Top Ten. Heading into Turn 3, Joe Graf, Jr., Deegan, and Gray were all running in close proximity. Deegan got under Graf, and while the MAVTV camera angle offered no definitive account of what happened, most reports indicated that Graf cut down just a tad on Deegan, which led to a check-up and Gray plowing into the back of the 55. Deegan and Graf then proceeded to bury their cars in the infamous foam that lines Toledo.
Hailie Deegan’s first ARCA start ended in a crash less than 1/4th of the way through today’s race at Toledo.— Nick Bromberg (@NickBromberg) May 19, 2019
She’s the 55 car. pic.twitter.com/gjL0g8rojd
Soon after, the cars of Basham, Doheny and Clifton parked, rounding out the Bottom Five.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
18) #55-Hailie Deegan / 29 laps / crash
17) #77-Joe Graf, Jr. / 29 laps / crash
16) #69-Mike Basham / 34 laps / suspension
15) #1-Richard Doheny / 38 laps / overheating
14) #11-Rick Clifton / 47 laps / brakes
1st) Brad Smith Motorsports, Venturini Motorsports (2)
2nd) Kimmel Racing, Mullins Racing (1)
2019 LASTCAR ARCA MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (4)
2nd) Toyota (2)
2019 LASTCAR ARCA DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP
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