Natalie Decker takes pole for ARCA season-opener at Daytona
Natalie Decker has a chance to make ARCA history on Saturday.
She already put herself in elite company on Friday by winning the pole for Saturday’s ARCA season opener at Daytona International Speedway – one of just five women to have won a pole in the stock car series.
Decker, 20, joins Patty Moise, Shawna Robinson, Erin Crocker and Milka Duno as former pole winners in ARCA. Crocker also won the pole for the season opener at Daytona in 2007.
But no female driver has ever won an ARCA race.
Decker’s average lap speed of 181.859 mph barely edged out Zane Smith (181.855 mph). Chase Purdy (181.811 mph) will line up third.
Completing the top five are rookie Max Tullman and Lelani Munter.
“It was crazy,” said Decker, who is running full-time with Venturini Motorsports this season. “My spotter (Eddie D’Hondt) was on me the whole time but that’s OK because I told him I like him to talk a lot.
“He was just walking me through the whole thing. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.”
Asked to put winning the pole in perspective, Decker said: “I was crying after the first time I was drafting here. Winning the pole is just unbelievable.”
After graduating from go-karts, Decker moved into full-sized stock cars at the age of 12. In 2012, at 14, she won the Central Wisconsin Super Stock Association championship. In 2013, she competed in the ARCA SCAG Midwest Truck Tour winning rookie of the year honor and sportsman of the year honors.
She joined NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2015 and the next season won picked up four feature wins in Super Late Model competition.
Last season, she ran seven ARCA races for Venturini, with a career-best finish of seventh at Road America. Her best start was eighth at Elko Speedway.
“There’s just been so much learning. I’m so thankful I’m with the Venturinis and Toyota and I’m so thankful to be here,” Decker said. “I learned a lot last year in those seven races in preparation to run for rookie of the year and so far it’s a great start.”
Asked what she will be thinking when she takes the green-flag to lead the 40-car field on Saturday, Decker said: “I’m just going to hold (the car) on the yellow line and listen to my spotter.”
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