Following the conclusion of Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series race at Worldwide Technology Raceway, things got a bit heated in the garage.
After making contact on the final green/white/checkered restart, Hailie Deegan and Todd Souza, along with their crews, had a heated disagreement. The contact in question wound up punching a hole in the rear bumper of Souza’s No. 13 Central Coast Cabinets Toyota.
"She jacked me up going into Turn 1 underneath the rear of my car," Souza told NASCAR.com. "We hadn’t been around her all race. We were a little bit off, fought back, got our lap back, made some changes and got the car better. I guess she caught the lucky dog after she went a lap down from the tire blowout she had, and I guess she thought that was a desperate move for her, to start moving people with her car."
Deegan finished ninth in the Monaco Cocktails Gateway Classic 125 presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, while Souza finished 10th.
With four races remaining this season, two of which are at tracks half a mile or longer, Souza vowed Saturday at Gateway will not be the last we’ll see of this new rivalry in the K&N Pro Series West.
"We’re going to some bigger tracks later in the year and there will be a payback," he said.
Deegan returned to her hauler to see Souza and his crew chief, Michael Munoz, visibly and audibly frustrated. The two needed to be restrained by Bill McAnally Racing general manager Kevin Bellicourt, as they were voicing their displeasure at Deegan’s crew chief Kyle Wolosek.
"He cussed me out, for sure," Deegan told NASCAR.com. "I was a little nervous there for a second. He started coming in my trailer as I was sitting down. There was a brief second where I thought he was going to do something there."
As for her side of what happened on track in the closing stages, she says it was a just case of a faster car trying to pass a slower car with limited time remaining, moments after a spin not of her fault.
"I’m like ‘sorry that you’re putting around in third gear on the restarts.’ Going into Turn 1, I have to move. I need positions," Deegan said. "I just got back on the lead lap, I had to make up as much ground as I could. It was between him and the No. 77 (Takuma Koga). I mean, what do you want me to do when you have the two slowest guys in front of you? I picked the one that was faster, gave him a little nudge. Not going into the corner, it was on the straightaway. I’m going to push you so I can clear the No. 77 and get back to the high groove where it’s fast."
Souza is a 12-year series veteran with one win coming in 2008 at Tooele. This season, he has two top fives and six top 10 results for Central Coast Racing.
Racing-Reference: Todd Souza Career Statistics
The Watsonville, California driver said he felt disrespected by Deegan’s move on track, and pointed to this incident as a tipping point for how younger drivers have raced him this season.
He didn’t hold back.
"Full on disrespect there to anybody," he said. "We’ve got a lot of money in this car, just as much money as they have in those cars. I support this series, I spent a lot of money, and to have somebody jack me up for one spot going into Turn 1 and taking a chance at losing a car, its just ridiculous."
"Her mindset, to be as spoiled and rotten as she is, she drives like she’s a spoiled rotten little baby."
Deegan reaffirmed she had no intentions of dumping Souza, and was rather dumbfounded at his displeasure for, what she considers, purely a racing incident.
"I wasn’t going to take him out, I think he thought I was trying to dump him or something," she said. "I didn’t need a caution, we were coming to the end. He was in the way, he moved out of the way and moved up. It’s not like I came cross his nose and tried to take him out again."
"I needed to go. I have positions to get, every point matters when it comes down to the championship. They’re won and lost within one point sometimes."
Deegan sits 29 points behind her teammate Derek Kraus with four races remaining in the K&N West season. The next race in three weeks at Meridian Speedway was the site of Deegan’s first career win in 2018.