DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 9, 2018) — Natalie Decker, in her first attempt at Daytona, won the General Tire Pole for Saturday’s Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
The Eagle River, Wisconsin rookie qualified with a top speed of 181.859 mph in her No. 25 Venturini Motorsports-prepared N29 Capital Partners – Yamaha Power Products Toyota Camry. Her top speed came from the fourth group among the six groups that qualified.
“This means so much to me to be here,” said Decker. “And to get the pole at Daytona is definitely the biggest moment of my career. I beat Johnny Sauter once at State Park Speedway, but this even beats that.”
Decker got some good help from veteran spotter Eddie D’Hondt.
“My goodness…it was crazy. My spotter talked the whole time. I told him to talk to me a lot. He told me to hold it on the yellow line and that’s what I did. He sent me a big long text last night and it helped so much. Thanks to Dave (Leiner/crew chief), Billy (Venturini), Toyota and everyone at Venturini Motorsports for giving me this opportunity and continued support. We’ve put together a great team!”
“There’s been so much learning. Dave has helped me so much. I’m so thankful he’s my crew chief and to be running with Venturini Motorsports. They’ve helped me so much.”
Dave Leiner is slated to be Decker’s crew chief for the entire 2018 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season. Leiner is a 5-time ARCA winning crew chief at Daytona International Speedway.
“Well I said last year, second or third race in…I said Natalie’s the real deal,” said Leiner. “I’ve worked with a lot of young drivers. Nat has what it takes to win here…to get to the next level. She’s got the drive, the talent and the backing. She gives good feedback, she listens well…she’s a joy to work with, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful day. 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.”
Despite being nervous, Decker also said she has no hesitation when it comes to racing in a big pack at Daytona.
“No hesitation,” she said. “Danica (Patrick) has done such a good job of paving the way for all girl drivers. 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 becomes the third female driver in history to win poles for the ARCA race at Daytona; Patty Moise won back to back poles in 1989 and ’90. Erin Crocker won the pole in 2007.
Decker makes up one of four team entries for tomorrow afternoon’s season opener. Leilani Munter, driver of the VEGANSTONG.com Toyota will start a career best fifth. Last year’s pole award winner, Tom Hessert, will start 10th in the U.S. Turf Equipment Toyota while Michael Self in the green and white Sinclair Oil Toyota will roll off 13th.
The Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire is live on FS1 Saturday (Feb. 10) at 4:30 p.m. ET. Look for live timing, scoring, chat and live audio at arcaracing.com.
ABOUT VENTURINI MOTORSPORTS:
Over the last 35-years Venturini Motorsports (VMS) has evolved into one of the most recognizable names in professional motorsports. Known for long-time dominance in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, Venturini Motorsports is held in high regard as one of the premier NASCAR driver development programs in the county. Since 2007, VMS has specialized in the career development of some of today’s top racing talent including current NASCAR “Stars” – Joey Logano, Erik Jones, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Darryl ‘Bubba’ Wallace Jr., Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Ben Rhoads, Ryan Reed, Brandon Jones, Matt Tifft, Brennan Poole, Dalton Sargeant, Justin Haley and Todd Gilliland. Integrity, dedication and continuous innovation paired with years of on-track success has helped define Venturini Motorsports as one of the longest tenured teams in all of modern day racing. In 2012, the Venturini racing family was recognized for their collective achievements and inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame – now finding themselves enshrined with such sports icons as Joe DiMaggio, Mario Andretti, Chip Ganassi, Andy Granatelli, Vince Lombardi, Tommy Lasorda and Rocky Marciano.