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

Daniel McFadin
NBC Sports

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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