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Brian Deegan: “There’s No Strategy Besides Being The Fastest Guy”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Brian Deegan’s career accomplishments speak for themselves. He has more than a dozen X Games medals, mostly in the sport of Freestyle Motocross; he’s one of the quickest rising stars in off-road racing, challenging for his third consecutive Lucas Oil Driver of the Year award; and he’s one of the most skilled drivers in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, having taken three consecutive podium finishes and ranking third in points through four events.

And yet out of all of the drivers in the GRC, Deegan may be the closest to resembling the traditional racing champion in mindset. Heavily focused on his craft, the 37-year-old Omaha native attacks rallycross with the same razor-sharp precision that has allowed him to be so successful on both two wheels and four. Any driver can talk about winning races, but Deegan knows that the job is simple: be the fastest competitor out there.

With two races left on the GRC schedule, the time is now for Deegan to show that speed. Earlier today, he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat with us about translating skills from one sport to another, his Olsbergs MSE team, and facing off with teammate Tanner Foust for the championship:

First question: you’ve been plenty busy this season, not only with Global Rallycross but also with the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, where you lead the Pro 2 points. What does it take to be competitive in multiple series over the course of a given year?

I just focus on being an all-over good athlete at multiple things. Having the foundation of growing up a motocross racer has been my best skill set, and I’m just able to really study who are the best guys and why they’re the best. And I study video, and I read a lot of books on racing. I just do my homework, I go out there, and I go out to win. That’s what’s in my head, and that’s why I feel like I’ve been able to dominate at multiple sports.

Looking back at New Hampshire—it was the first time that the GRC was able to get dirt involved on a NASCAR track, as well as adding an elevated hairpin over the pit wall. In short, it was perhaps the most unique layout of the season. What were some of the biggest challenges on that track?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

For me, I’d say it was when they put the dirt on the track—it adds more of a challenge so it isn’t just a road course race. I think once the sand got kicked out onto the track it made it real slick, and that was the most challenging. Then they built that jump down the front straightaway, that just shot you straight up in the air and landed you out in the flat-on pavement. That one was a pretty brutal landing.

You’re one of three drivers tied for second in the series with three heat wins, including one at New Hampshire. How important has scoring that front row starting spot for the final been this year?

Rally’s such a short race, it’s just like a sprint, so you really need to get on the front row to have a chance at winning. It’s a short race, so I feel like that starts with qualifying and getting on the front row. It’s all about clean, good starts. I feel like from motocross I have the advantage of being a good starter, and that’s been my specialty.

You had to race teammate Tanner Foust down the final straightaway for third place at New Hampshire. Does the Ford team usually take it easier with one another, or is it every man for himself in the final?

It’s every man for himself, you know? It’s racing, and there’s a lot of guys on that team. You know, actually, Tanner’s helped me a lot. Out of all the guys, he’s helped me the most. But when we’re on the track, he’s a competitor, and we have to try to beat each other. That’s our job.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Loudon marked your third consecutive podium finish. The only exception this season has been Charlotte, where you had mechanical issues despite winning your first heat race. Do you think about Charlotte and wonder where you’d be in the championship if that hadn’t happened, or do you put it out of your mind?

The thing is, a lot of people don’t know that they let you drop one race in the GRC series. As of now, I get to drop my worst race, so I get to drop that race. So right now, me and Tanner are pretty much battling for the championship.

As it stands, you’re third in points right now, 13 out of the lead and only one behind Samuel Hubinette in second place. With two races left, how does that affect how you approach the end of the season? Are you confident that you can make up that deficit, and will you drive more aggressively to do so?

I’m going to try to win the last two races. That’s what I’m here to do, and I feel like that’s what I’m going to go to the track to do. That’s what I do in all the other series I try to race; I’m here to win. So there’s no strategy besides just going out and trying to be the fastest guy.

Las Vegas adds new modifications to the layout from Charlotte and Texas, adding six-degree banked dirt in the NASCAR infield and putting the shortcut through the gap jump. Have you looked at the new layout? What do you like about it?

Yeah, I think it’s good! Any time you can add dirt and the jumping over each other on the gap jump, I think the crowd really likes that. So I think that’s a good weekend for the sport.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Fords scored five of the six podium spots at Charlotte and Texas, and Las Vegas is similarly tight. What about the Fiesta makes them so good on the smaller tracks?

I just feel like (Olsbergs MSE) have put the most time and improvements into the Ford Fiestas. You can just tell the team is a league above all the others. (But) I feel like everyone’s catching up, and the other teams are getting harder to beat, and our advantages are getting shortened every race. It’s just up to Andreas (Eriksson) and the other guys to run the team and keep us ahead as far as technology goes.

Finally, you’re tied with Foust for the lead in the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, which concludes at Las Vegas. Are you thinking about the bonus, and does it make you view the race as sort of a head-to-head battle with Tanner? Do you think that it’ll take a victory to bring that prize home?

Pretty much. It depends who beats who to get that one. That’s the way I like it—I like it to come down to the wire and come down to who wins or who beats each other to win the prize, and that’s why I do it. I love the pressure, I feed off it. So I’m glad I’m even in that position to battle, and my goal is to win that.

– Chris Leone

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