SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP)Hailie Deegan has another full-time ride in the NASCAR Truck Series, this one with ThorSport Racing.

ThorSport formally added Deegan to its driver lineup Thursday as it announced a manufacturer switch from Toyota to Ford.

The 21-year-old California native will race in the third-tier series for the third consecutive season. She finished a series-best sixth at Talladega Superspeedway in October and was named the series’ Most Popular Driver for the second consecutive year, both with David Gilliland Racing.

”I think the last two seasons in trucks I’ve been trying to figure it out and kind of learning the ropes of the Truck Series, and I feel like I’ve good a grasp on it now and understand what you need to be successful as a driver, what the team needs to do for their part and the people you need to have around you,” Deegan said. ”There’s just a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and I think maybe the last two years it was trying to find those pieces and trying to figure it out.”

She joined Ford Performance as part of its driver development program in 2020 and drove in a variety of disciplines this year, including the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and ARCA Menards Series where she finished third in the point standings and won Rookie of the Year honors.

But after DGR switched to Toyota in October, Deegan started looking for a Ford-backed team to continue her racing career. The biggest question: in which series would she land? Ford helped her make her first Xfinity Series start in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she finished 13th.

She still hopes to get some seat time in the second-tier Xfinity Series, which would be a step closer to the ultimate goal of the Cup Series.

”I’ll look for opportunities to go do a few Xfinity races,” she said. ”Obviously, nothing full-time is going to come up, but I think that being able to go and do a few Xfinity races would definitely be awesome. It just depends on funding and sponsors and kind of what’s going on and what comes to the table throughout the year that could decide those Xfinity races.”

Deegan joins three-time series champion Matt Crafton, 2021 series champ Ben Rhodes and Ty Majeski at ThorSport. She replaces Christian Eckes, who moved to MacAnally-Hilgemann Racing last week.

Deegan, the daughter of Motocross star Brian Deegan, has a sponsorship deal with Monster Energy. Her social media stardom has helped offset her on-track results. In two seasons in the Truck Series, she has three top-10 finishes in 44 starts and has yet to lead a lap.

”We love watching the development drivers progress and advance on the track and off the track,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance Motorsports. ”And watching that maturity of Hailie in terms of how she evaluates a car or a truck on the racetrack … that’s awesome to see and a really important part of what a race driver needs to develop.

”I think this is the next opportunity with a team that’s going to be around her, the people that are going to be around her to give her that opportunity to go one more level.”

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