Hailie Deegan Is Bringing a New Audience to NASCAR

Through her active YouTube channel, teenage racing sensation Hailie Deegan is revealing the future for racing fans

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Hailie Deegan is one of the most exciting prospects in NASCAR’s minor leagues, a racer who has won two NASCAR K&N Pro Series West events in 2019. She’s an aggressive driver who pushes the pace, which has led to results as well as props from racing legends such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and others. 

As Deegan ascends the ladder in her sport, she approaches the landscape practically. “It’s an ‘earning respect’ game,” Deegan said on a recent visit to the ONE37pm office. The daughter of freestyle motocross star Brian Deegan, Hailie maintains a popular YouTube channel with her family, a hub that follows Deegan siblings Hailie, Haiden and Hudson and their extreme sports adventures. Since NASCAR fans are generally older than X Games fans, and perhaps less inclined to use platforms like YouTube, it’s been an ongoing experiment to get those fans over to the media the Deegans create. But that’s seen as a massive opportunity for Hailie—she could be a generation-gapping figure in racing. 

During their visit, ONE37pm chatted briefly with Brian and Hailie Deegan about building Hailie’s personal brand, how she approaches her sport and her ideas for making racing more appealing to young people.

ONE37pm: The Deegan YouTube channel keeps growing, but it’s possible that not a ton of NASCAR fans follow along on YouTube. What’s been the biggest challenge trying to branch into racing?

Brian Deegan: My career started in motocross, supercross, the X Games, so the stock car world is pretty new for us. Our main market was moto, and we were trying to get the NASCAR fans over to our channel. All of our moto videos would kill it, but the NASCAR stuff was slow-moving.

I think the NASCAR crowd is still an older crowd where they’re hard to get onto YouTube. So that’s been a struggle, but now it’s growing now. And I think on social, with the stories, and the word-of-mouth, the swipe ups and all that, those tactics have brought a lot of the car people over to our YouTube page now. But that’s been the hardest battle, just getting [the racing audience] to understand.

Was there a moment when the attention started to pick up? 

Hailie Deegan: When I started winning. That's when the videos start doing good. You get the views when you win!

Brian Deegan: Any time she got say Kevin Harvick or a Dale Jr. or any of the OGs to co-sign her...

Hailie Deegan: They put me under their wing.

Brian Deegan: When she went on the Dale Jr. Podcast, all that stuff is like, OK, those guys are opening the door to the audience. Because as a female driver, it's definitely not easy.

Hailie Deegan: When it comes to the racing industry, everyone is like, “It's not as big as it was!” and I definitely agree. It's not as big as it was but there is a new wave of kids coming in who are involved in social media, who have personalities, who have some type of unique, diverse thing about them. Once these kids come in they’re going to take the sport over.

Are there other personalities in your sport you really look up to in terms of how they've built their personal brand?

Hailie Deegan: There are certain drivers where I like their driving style, or drivers where I like their personality. There are little things that I take away from other drivers. I think I try to gain a piece of the puzzle, and then try to make my own person, based on who I would look up to.

Brian Deegan: In racing, the last ten years, everyone’s so vanilla. They get up and they say the same interview speech, “Oh, my tires were great, my car was great,” instead of getting real and saying, “You know what, this dude took me out last week. He did this to me!” It’s real life.

Hailie Deegan: And that's what I'm trying to bring back.

Throughout this process, what's been the most surprising thing you've noticed?

Hailie Deegan: I've been surprised by much you can learn.

With racing, one second it’s like, I know how to do this. And you go to the next race and it’s like, Oh my God, I just learned something new. Oh my God, I didn’t know that! And so it’s constantly just so much information you keep taking in and learning from.

Recently, I went to a superspeedway for the first time and I was saying to myself, I’ve been to mile-and-a-half tracks before. [Editor’s note: A superspeedway is an oval track where a driver turns to the same side over and over.] All of a sudden you get on the superspeedway and I was like, Oh my God. This is nothing like I’ve ever felt before. This is weird—I’m turning right on the straightaway, going straight and turning right again. You think you know what’s coming up, but then you don’t.

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