Natalie Decker went from qualifying history to a scare on the track on Daytona.
The 20-year-old, who became only the fifth woman in ARCA history to qualify on the pole, suffered a scare when she needed oxygen and fluids after the race.
The reason? Her cooling system wasn’t hooked into her helmet, so she overheated in her hot car. While not unusual, it’s still concerning.
“My car kept overheating after I went through grass to avoid a wreck, and it just lost a little power at the end,” Decker told ESPN. “The water temp was way too hot, and I had no water pressure or anything.”
Decker finished fifth, an impressive feat for a young driver who suffered damage to her car when she hit the back of another car. The race was also marred by several wrecks, including a massive pile up that saw the car of Bret Holmes go airborne.
“My first time at Daytona, I sat on the pole and got fifth. So I’m really happy,” she said.
Decker joined NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program in 2015, and has been racing stock cars since she was 12. It is her first full time season in ARCA, but she ran seven races for Venturini Motorsports in the series last year. Until Daytona, her best start was eighth at Elko Speedway and if she can translate qualifying success to the race, she could also improve on her career-best seventh place finish at Road America.
Those seven races gave Decker the experience needed to kick off a season she hopes will end with some hardware. A goal she made clear when she said, “I learned a lot last year in those seven races in preparation to run for rookie of the year and so far it’s a great start.”