Natalie Decker wins ARCA pole at Daytona, credits Danica Patrick for ‘paving the way’

ARCA Racing Series
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Natalie Decker won the pole for Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Decker, 20, won the pole for the Lucas Oil 200 with a speed of 181.859 mph in the No. 25 Venturini Motorsports N29 Capital Partners Toyota.

The native of Eagle River, Wisconsin, is the fourth woman to win a pole at Daytona.

Decker joins Danica Patrick’s Daytona 500 pole in 2013, Erin Crocker’s Lucas Oil 200 pole in 2007 and Patty Moise’s poles in the race in 1989-90.

“This means so much to me to be here,” Decker said. “And to get the pole at Daytona is definitely the biggest moment of my career. I beat (2016 Camping World Truck Series champion) Johnny Sauter once at State Park Speedway, but this even beats that.”

Decker is competing full-time in ARCA this season after making seven ARCA starts in 2017 with Venturini. She captured one top 10 at Road America where she placed seventh.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful day,” Decker said. “I’m so excited to be here. I know I’m going to get nervous when I climb in that car for the race, but I’m going to turn those nerves into drive and excitement once the race starts.”

Saturday’s race, scheduled for 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday on Fox Sports 1, will be Decker’s first at Daytona. It will come a week before Patrick’s last NASCAR start in the 60th Daytona 500.

“Danica has done such a good job of paving the way for all girl drivers,” Decker said. “There are a lot of them coming up … and they’re all fast. I want to have a good showing tomorrow night for all of them, and I know I have the right team to do it with.”

Decker and Patrick share a closer connection.

Patrick’s middle name is Sue. The name was inspired by Decker’s Aunt Sue.

“She kind of set (Patrick’s) parents up on a date,” Decker said. “My dad raced back in day snowmobiles against her dad. Her mother worked on my aunt’s team.”

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