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  Debate

Debate

Is Tony Stewart's rookie really deserving, or did Hailie Deegan get a raw deal?

When Team Penske’s Joey Logano made a one-off appearance replacing Hailie Deegan in the #15 Ford, everyone knew something was up. So no one was caught by surprise when AM Racing and Deegan announced the end of their partnership, effective immediately. While not much has been cited as the reason by either party, the President of the team did suggest that they failed to reach the desired success with Deegan in the first half of the season. In response, their former #15 driver has removed the mention of AM Racing from all her socials.

But as of now, there are new developments in the drama. Reports indicate that Stewart-Haas Racing’s Josh Berry will be wheeling the #15 at Pocono. The news has the fans spinning donuts online yet again! And Hailie Deegan? She seems to be “working as quick as possible to find the best opportunities to get back” with another organization.

AM Racing taps Stewart-Haas driver Josh Berry

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Only last October, AM Racing & Deegan announced that the 3x Truck Series MPD had signed a multi-year contract to drive the #15 Xfinity car full-time in 2024. She made her debut with a DNF at Daytona. In the next seventeen races, Deegan’s best finish was a P12 at Xfinity Talladega. She registered a DNF twice and finished below the twenty spots in ten outings until her most recent at New Hampshire. While Deegan’s performance was already concerning, Joey Logano’s finish returning to Xfinity after 2019 did not help her case. At the Xfinity Chicago Street Race, Logano finished 8th in sub-par equipment, which was still four positions better than Hailie Deegan’s best for AM Racing.

Poll of the day

Do you think Tony Stewart's rookie driver took advantage of Hailie Deegan's painful NASCAR exit?

Yes, absolutely

No, it was fair competition

Not sure, need more context

The race team started in 2016 and has since then raced across the Xfinity & truck Series over 200 times without a single pole position or victory to claim. Moreover, they have a technical alliance with soon-to-shut down Ford Performance giants from the Cup Series, Stewart-Haas Racing. This enables them to receive parts, equipment & technical support from Tony Stewart & Gene Haas’ troubled organization. Hence, it is only natural that Josh Berry finds himself next in line to help AM Racing field a temporary driver for the Pocono Xfinity race next weekend.

AM Racing’s latest Twitter post reads,@joshberry will pilot the No. 15 @vivaseltzer Ford Mustang this weekend @PoconoRaceway in the @NASCAR_Xfinity Series Explore the Pocono Mountains 225!” This further concurs with the race team’s earlier stated objective “to field a competitive race team through our technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing,” and to provide Hailie Deegan’s potential replacement “the best equipment and opportunity to be successful on track each weekend.”

Berry, a 5-time Xfinity race-winner with JR Motorsports, is certainly a plausible one-off replacement to test the limits of the #15 AM Racing Ford Mustang. However, his second-tier assignment on behalf of Tony Stewart’s race team has brought forth many warranted concerns from the wider NASCAR community on Reddit.

NASCAR fans debate if AM Racing set up the failure

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For starters, when news of Josh Berry’s appointment made its way onto the NASCAR Subreddit, one fan wondered, “Who races the playoff races and regular-season finale.” Quite a commendable inquiry, and even Bob Pockrass of FOX had earlier specified that “Deegan would not be eligible to make the playoffs if she misses Chicago.” So that leaves another can of worms still left to open. Regardless, the Redditor’s initial inquiry also held their speculative driver of the #15 car during the Xfinity post-season – either Majeski or Dibenedetto (I think Matt is actually in the 38 full time, so probably not him).”

But others quickly hopped on the distasteful Hailie Deegan hate train, as one fan wrote, “Oh man even her sponsor stuck around without her” This member of the NASCAR community was referring to Deegan’s earlier announced primary sponsorship with Viva Tequila Seltzer, which will now be on the #15 car at Pocono with replacement driver Josh Berry behind the wheel.

Some sensible members of the NASCAR community did not completely strike all the blame off AM Racing’s sub-par setup, like this fan who opined, “People are hyping up a 2 time champ for finishing 8th when the finish does not reflect his race, he was 13th-16th most of the day and avoided some crashes. With what you mentioned, it shows how bad AM is and how good Joey is. Not sure how good Josh will do with what’s being handed to him but the expectations for this team aren’t high no matter who’s driving.”

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A portion wished for a new experiment, and this comment emphasized that sentiment further: “Ngl this is the kind of driver I wanted to see in the 15 before I come to any real conclusions about Deegan’s performance. Totally no bias whatsoever that my driver is gonna get some extra laps in.” But one diehard, assumably not a fan of Tony Stewart’s #4 rookie, saw some humor in the whole situation and commented, “After seeing Berry this past weekend, I’d rather have Deegan in the car!”

Banter is admirable, but Hailie Deegan’s plight has barely been a joke. Where would she find her racing haven after these Xfinity disappointments? Let us know in the comments below.