Just last month, 19-year old Natalie Decker splashed onto the ARCA Racing Series scene making her tour debut at Toledo Speedway. The popular female driver, making a name for herself on the legendary short tracks of Wisconsin, has quickly become a fan favorite for her skills and infectious personality.
During her first two short track series appearances, Decker has delivered results, showing both speed and finesse proving she’s ready for the national spotlight. And that spotlight is about to shine brighter.
Decker, a native of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is ready to face the next career challenge making her superspeedway debut in Friday’s General Tire #AnyWhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway.
“Pocono is an awesome track,” says Decker who logged her first ever laps around Pocono’s 2.5 mile triangle on Wednesday during ARCA’s open test. “Coming here for my first time I didn’t really know what to expect. I watched a lot of Dartfish and past ARCA and Cup races but there’s nothing quite like experiencing Pocono’s front stretch and that hard dive into turn one to really prepare yourself for the true sensation of this track.”
Decker, receiving pointers from veteran driver Tom Hessert at Pocono on Wednesday, posted a fast lap of 55.335 (162.437 mph).
“I’m 80% happy with the way our test results went. Tommy (Hessert) gave me a huge shot of confidence – learning from someone with so much experience is a big help. There’s a lot of speed left in the car – it’s just getting a feel for the track. Turns one and two are nothing like I’ve ever seen before. I’ve learned a ton and expect we’ll pick up considerable time come Friday’s practice session.”
Driving Venturini Motorsports’ No.25 N29 Capital Partners Toyota Camry, Decker has performed at a high level running mostly inside the top-10 during her first two series attempts. Credited with back-to-back top-15 short track finishes, Decker has quickly impressed her crew chief, Dave Leiner.
“Nats (Natalie) has done a great job in limited starts – outperforming our pre-race goals each time out,” says Dave Leiner. “She’s shown a lot of speed and patience behind the wheel. Her eagerness to learn and positive mindset goes a long way – especially for a young driver breaking into the series.”
“She’s a relatively unknown driver so I didn’t know a whole bunch about her as a driver before coming to Venturini. One of her best attributes is her desire to succeed – but she’s her own biggest critic and constantly asking for ways to improve laps times or whatever else it is we’re working on.”
“One thing is apparent, she’s in full control behind the wheel at all times. She’s got a bright future. At this level if you want to become a big time auto racer you need to live in the seat at all times. Give her some time and I have no doubt Natalie could contend for wins at this level – how cool would that be?,” added Leiner.
A second generation driver and former member of NASCAR’s ‘Drive for Diversity’ program, Decker is more than ready to take the next step in her career development in hopes of adding her name to an impressive list of NASCAR drivers to come out of her home state.
For decades the state of Wisconsin has built a reputation of delivering talent to the highest levels of stock car racing – Alan Kulwicki, Dick Trickle, Matt Kenseth, Travis Kvapil, brothers’ Scott and Chris Wimmer and the Sauter family (Jim, Tim, Jay, Johnny and Travis) top the list of notable NASCAR drivers produced by the dairy state.
Pocono Raceway Schedule
Practice for the General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 is raceday, Friday morning from 9:30 - 10:55 a.m. with General Tire Pole Qualifying at 2 p.m. The General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 is live on FOX SPORTS 1 Friday afternoon at 5:45 p.m.