Disaster Strikes for Hailie Deegan at Daytona as Daniel Suarez’s Spine-Chilling Crash Ends Her Xfinity Debut

Published 02/19/2024, 9:54 PM EST

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Hailie Deegan’s first race in the AM Racing #15 Ford Dark Horse Mustang has gone completely off the rails. Eyeing a close and decisive result in the season opener at Daytona, the 22-year-old was on her way with a decent start until trouble came looking for her early in the race. The highly anticipated Xfinity debut of Deegan thus ended with a bone-chilling, vicious crash that also left Trackhouse Racing‘s Daniel Suarez winded. 23 laps into stage 1, and the crowd witnessed the first caution for the first Xfinity of the season.

Daytona disaster for Hailie Deegan as early tangle with Suarez takes away the steam

Wendy’s in-car replay indicated that Suarez lost control of his #14 Chevy once it was bumped into the rear, getting the driver into the barrier only to spin out into the oncoming traffic where the others were collected. To add to Deegan and Suarez, Sam Mayer and Kyle Weatherman were the other two unfortunate victims of the wreck, with both their cars receiving major front-end damages.


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Following the wreck, Suarez, Mayer, Deegan, and Weatherman—all had to retire from the United Rentals 300. They will be credited with 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th-place finishes respectively.

Deegan described the pile-up, “I saw two guys in front of me start wrecking. I started checking up. I was playing it cautious at the beginning of the race and tried to hang back but I got hit on the entry to the corner. As soon as I was checking up I thought the guys behind me would check up because they were further back but then I got hit on entry of turn one and as soon as that happened it started my momentum back up. I tried to get it slowed down but couldn’t in time. It is what it is.”

Sam Mayer, who was hit with the biggest outside wall impact from the mini-big one, was checked and released from the infield care center with no injuries. But he did say, “I’m glad it looked like a hard hit because it felt like one. JRM Fabrication and everyone at the shop did their job in building a safe racecar. So, props to them and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, as well.”

After the race was over, Hailie Deegan cut a sorry figure as she spoke about her debut race going awry. Dejected about how she has always had it tough at Daytona, Deegan was very frustrated.

WATCH THIS STORY: Hailie Deegan goes head over heels for the “gnarly!” GT 40

Dejected Deegan opens up about her “bad relationship” with Daytona


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The Xfinity debutant saw an early tangle that ended the driver’s Daytona hopes with a bitter aftertaste, an experience that opened old wounds. The racer mentioned her bad history at the 2.5-mile speedway. Disappointed with the turnout, she said, “It is so frustrating because I feel like at Daytona, I have tried so many different strategies and none of them work out. It is very frustrating. I don’t know. Maybe one time we will get lucky here.

A quick rundown of some of her past Daytona outings would reveal that Deegan’s frustrations aren’t out of place.

  • 2023 truck season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Deegan finished a significantly disappointing 35th in her ThorSport Racing debut, wrecking out about one-third of the way through.
  • At the 2020 series season-opener at Daytona with co-driver Chase Briscoe, their #22 Ford GT4 ran as high as 15th but mechanical problems three hours into the four-hour event saw them finish 43rd out of 51 cars.
  • That’s not all. In the 2020 season-opening ARCA race at Daytona, Deegan’s aggressive bump drafting nearly spun teammate Tanner Gray into the tri-oval. Eric Holmes, her spotter, advised her to relax the aggression. But regardless, Deegan ended up sending Chuck Hiers into the wall coming off of turn 2 later.


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While luck was rarely by her side this year, we can only hope that the driver will be able to turn around her fortune in her future runs!

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Written by:

Kishore R


One take at a time

Kishore is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. He actively covers live events and does detailed race analyses, helping fans understand the very nitty gritties of the sport. Using the right mix of storytelling and game expertise, Kishore can take his readers on a journey to see how a particular race was for some of their most loved drivers, like Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta