Decker makes history with top-five finish at Daytona

Photo by Jacob Seelman / SPEED SPORT

By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – History was made as Natalie Decker earned the best finish by a female in the history of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

In NASCAR Overtime at Daytona International Speedway, Decker lined up ninth on the running order in her No. 44 N29 Technologies Chevrolet Silverado. The 22-year-old hugged the double-yellow line in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 as her Niece Motorsports teammate Ross Chastain and others played ‘bumper cars’ further ahead.

Decker picked off position after position as Chastain, Johnny Sauter and others slipped by the wayside. As race leader Grant Enfinger and Jordan Anderson door-banged coming to the checkered, the momentum of the outside line faded. Decker surged forward and edged Austin Hill for fifth place.

It came as a surprise to Decker that she had made history:

“Wow, I didn’t even know that. That is so cool. Well that makes me feel very proud. Thank you for telling me that.”

The history-making run came in part due to the team strategy. After unapproved adjustments sent Decker to the rear of the field prior to the start of the race, her crew opted to keep her at the tail of the field.

The decision kept her out of several field clearing wrecks, including one that sent the third Niece Motorsports truck of Ty Majeski on its’ lid.

Decker had a close call in a multi-truck accident on lap 65 when Angela Ruch broke loose in the middle of the field. The Eagle River, WI native narrowly avoided the destroyed Reaume Brothers Racing machine.

Although Decker initially found the strategy boring, she admitted that her team made the right call:

“The beginning all the way up until the last two laps, my team just kept telling me if we’re just going to ride in the back, we’re going to ride in the back. And I was just so bored back there. Like, ‘come on, I want to go up and race, I want to get a good finish.’ And they were so right. Just missing all the wrecks in the last two laps, getting up there and finishing it out, getting ourselves a top-five.”

The top-five finish comes almost one year to the day in which she had a disastrous NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series debut. Driving for DGR-Crosley at the time, a piece of debris sent her truck up in flames before she could complete a lap.

“It was so amazing to be able to come here after last year when we were on fire on the first lap, and then come here this year and get a top five,” explained Decker. “But I just think that’s incredible and I’m just so proud of my team and proud of myself.”

The previous best finish by a woman in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series came last season when Ruch finished eighth at Daytona. She too avoided the mayhem in her own history-making run one year ago.

The next NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race is the Strat 250 on Feb. 21 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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