Natalie Decker found a way to quiet her critics on Friday.
She won the pole for the Lucas Oil 200 in her Daytona International Speedway debut.
The 20-year-old Eagle River, Wisc., who is running for rookie honors in the ARCA Racing Series this season, isn’t going to let the social media trolls discourage her. When hateful or disparaging comments fill her timelines questioning her talent or marketing motives, Decker just turns the other cheek.
“My Twitter has been going pretty crazy lately, especially after I got the pole,” Decker told motorsport.com. “So it’s hard to keep up with it. Just read the positive stuff and try to stay positive. I have a lot of great supporters on my team to help me look past what other people are saying.
“I have so many fans that are wonderful—and I love every one of them. They help motivate me a lot. But it’s more about doing this for myself. To be out there and win the race for myself, get the pole for myself. Do it for myself. And that’s how I stay motivated.”
Kenny Wallace took to Twitter to defend Decker. Wallace has raced alongside her at Marshfield Motor Speedway, a half-mile track north of Madison, Wisc.
Decker’s support staff also includes her Venturini Motorsports teammate Leilani Munter, who will start fifth in the ARCA race, and Danica Patrick. Decker’s family shares a history with the Patricks, and Natalie has looked up to Danica since she started racing competitively.
“She’s smart,” Decker said. “She gives me a lot of advice. It’s funny. My aunt raced snowmobiles, and my dad did, too. And Danica’s dad raced back in the day, and her mom was on my aunt’s pit crew. My aunt kind of set them up on a blind date and Danica’s middle name “Sue” is after my aunt. So it’s because of my Auntie Sue that Danica’s here probably.”
And with Patrick making her final NASCAR start in next Sunday’s Daytona 500, the door is open for the next generation of women drivers to fill the void.
“What you can only see so far in the higher levels of racing are a few but there are so many younger girls who are fast,” Decker said. “They’re like 10-years-old, 12 years-old and they’re racing anything and everything—dirt cars, go-karts, full size cars—and they're coming up.
“They’re going to be here faster than you know it. Leilani is my teammate. I’m so excited to have a girl teammate. That’s going to be awesome. And having Danica race her last race, it’s going to be a great weekend.
"Yeah, (the fans are) waiting for a girl driver and there's a bunch of them coming.”
Decker graduated from go-karts to stock cars by the age of 12. She won the 2012 Central Wisconsin Super Stock Association championship two years later. Decker was recruited for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2015 where she won four features while competing in Super Late Models.
Although not every interaction on social media is positive, Decker has been masterful in using Instagram, Twitter, Snaphat and Facebook to help build her brand along the way.
“Social media is a wonderful thing,” Decker said. “It can be awesome and it can be not so awesome. But it’s more awesome than not. I love it. It’s so much fun to do and show what I can do outside of racing.
“I took over Snapchat today. It’s fun and to follow along is great.”
Natalie Decker takes pole for ARCA season-opener at Daytona
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