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History was made on Friday at Daytona International Speedway as Natalie Decker scored the pole for the annual ARCA Racing Series event at the famous Florida superspeedway.

The Eagle River, Wisconsin rookie qualified with a top speed of 181.859 mph in her No. 25 Venturini Motorsports-prepared N29 Capital Partners Toyota. Her top speed came from the fourth group among the six groups that qualified.

“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 Johnny Sauter once at State Park Speedway, but this even beats that.”

Decker was coached by veteran spotter spotter Eddie D’Hondt who is currently the eyes on the sky for Chase Elliott.

“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 walking me through this whole thing. Everyone has been so helpful.

“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 season.

“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.”

MDM Motorsports drivers Zane Smith and Chase Purdy were second and third in qualifying. Mason Mitchell Motorsports’ Max Tullman was fourth. Decker’s Venturini Motorsports teammate Leilani Munter was fifth fastest.

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. She says she is attempting to follow Danica Patrick into the history books.

“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.”

The complete starting lineup can be found below.










Matt Weaver



Matt Weaver



– Matt Weaver is an associate motorsports editor at Autoweek. Before becoming a journalist, he was a dirt track racer and short track cheeseburger connoisseur.

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