Lots of love, but still no ride for Hailie Deegan, who left the unemployment line this week to collect the Most Popular Driver award in NASCAR’s Truck Series.
With Chase Elliott and Noah Gragson winning the honor in the Cup and Xfinity Series, Deegan topped fan voting for the second straight year among truck racers.
But will she get a shot at a third?
It’s very late in the game to be without a plan for next year, but that’s where Deegan sits after her Truck Series team — David Gilliland Racing — announced a switch from Ford to Toyota and a team rebranding to Tricon Garage.
That ended the team’s two-year run with the 21-year-old Californian, who’s under contract with Ford's racing division — Ford Performance, which is presumably scrambling to put something together for a popular racer it hopes to usher all the way up the NASCAR ladder.
Deegan is NASCAR's only full-time female racer in a national series.
Hailie Deegan, Ford looking for a good fit
After a couple of successful seasons in NASCAR’s lower minor leagues (K&N West Series) and a competitive year in ARCA, Deegan’s past two years in the Truck Series hasn’t brought good results — just three top-10s in 45 starts.
However, she left the truck cab and got back into a sedan for one race this past season, finishing a respectable 13th in the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas.
“When you run great, it helps deals for the future,” Deegan said after that October race. “Running Xfinity costs a very big bill. You’ve got to have sponsors to pay that bill. Trying to get the funding set is definitely tough, but we’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing.”
Nearly two months later, still nothing.
Odds are, unless something dramatically changes, Ford will make the necessary moves to put Deegan back in the Truck Series and hope for on-track improvement ahead of a probable move to Xfinity in 2023.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Hailie Deegan, unlike Chase Elliott, Noah Gragson, needs NASCAR ride