Busy days ahead for Decker

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – There will be drivers who will run more races in 2019, but it’s unlikely anyone will run in as many different series as 21-year-old Natalie Decker.

ARCA? She won the pole in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway last year and returns for this weekend’s race looking to improve on a fifth-place finish. Last month she was fastest in preseason testing on the 2.5-mile superspeedway in her debut with the DGR-Crosley Toyota team.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series? A 12-race schedule awaits the Eagle River, Wis., native, her debut scheduled for the same legendary DIS layout later this month.

Toss in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where she is scheduled to make one or more starts, beginning with Bristol Motor Speedway.

What about road racing? Decker has a five-race Trans Am schedule with Ave Motorsports that consists of stops at Daytona, Watkins Glen, Sebring, Road American and Virginia international Raceway (VIR).

Had enough yet?

The diminutive Decker hasn’t. She’s also one of 28 finalists for the all-female W Series, a European-based racing series that will debut this year and will feature 18 racers (plus two alternates) running a six-race schedule in Formula 3 entries.

The final cut comes next month following a second test session/tryout in Spain.

“I wanted to think I was good enough to advance to the next round, but I was up against all road racers,” Decker said of her W Series experience. “I was shocked but at the same time I had a feeling I could make it to the next round. All 54 (racers) that were there were amazing but the 28 that are moving to the next round … this next round is going to be hard.

“I’ve got to study for Daytona, I have to study for (Trans-Am) cars, I have to learn the new F3 car that I don’t even know anything about. I’ve got a lot of studying to do.”

Which begs the question- why? Why run all over the country, and potentially outside it as well, competing in various racing series? Why not focus all that talent and attention on a single series?

“Some people probably wouldn’t want to be doing what I’m doing,” said Decker, who will run stateside this year for the DGR-Crosley outfit. “Because I’m really spreading myself out. But I’m really looking forward to it.

“The big thing is everything I going to learn in all the different cars I’m driving.

“Ever since I was really little, a lot of older racers would tell me ‘Drive anything and everything you can because seat time is seat time. And you’ll learn so much from all the different types of cars.’”

David Gilliland, operator of DGR-Crosley, said he’s seen “flashes of what it takes to be competitive” in Decker.

“It takes something so different to get her comfortable in a truck or a vehicle than anybody else,” Gilliland said. “From the pedals and the steering … getting it to where she is comfortable and can be 100 percent.

“I’m really looking forward to giving her the opportunity that I think she needs to be as successful of a race car driver as she can be.”

A former Xfinity Series winner, Gilliland, 42, started his organization for folks just like Decker. The group fields everything from Late Models to Trucks.

It’s also competitive. Tyler Ankrum won the 2018 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title while teammate Tyler Dippel finished second.

And that’s what helped draw her to DGR-Crosley after an ’18 season with Venturini Motorsports.

“First of all, when they would show up at the track, they were stupid fast all the time,” she said of DGR-Crosley.

“But a big reason is that everything is under this roof here. You’ve got Truck, you’ve got K&N, you’ve got ARCA. I’ve got the same owner, the same team I can work with, so I won’t be bouncing around my sponsor (N 29 Technologies).”

She’s only been with the group a few weeks but thus far she said she likes what she’s seen.

“I think it’s a good fit,” Decker said. “I already love it.”

The season-opening Lucas Oil 200 ARCA race is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET at Daytona and will air on FS1.

5 Replies to “Busy days ahead for Decker”

  1. Congratulations on everything that you are getting into but most of all enjoy every minute of it , not everyone get to do what they love doing so cherish it and most of all have fun

  2. If you can drive it and get the experience. Will only enrich your talent as a driver. Congratulations on all of your endeavours. I believe you will see the winners circle.

  3. Go for it Natalie follow your dreams your fans will be with you all the way to the top,awesome race Saturday at Daytona,proud of you,,your #1 fan,stay safe,,,,

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