"You just show up and race": Eagle River's Natalie Decker talks about changes at the pro race tracks this season
Sports across the board this year was thrown for a loop because of the coronavirus pandemic. Professional stock car racer Natalie Decker of Eagle River called it crazy when the quarantine first went into effect.
“I was in California ready to race, and I flew out there to do some road racing with Ave Motorsports, and I got a call saying they cancelled everything, everyone’s got to go home, and I was just so shocked and it was so scary,” Decker recalled.
She said it was a different life staying at home and not racing. But now, she said she’s happy to be back at the track.
“It’s sad that really no fans can be there, my family’s really not allowed to come, a very limited number of people are allowed to go.”
Another adjustment Decker’s had to make is to the usual formalities that come before a race.
“There’s no practice, there’s no qualifying. You just show up and race,” Decker said. “Especially not having the fans there, it’s just so different, and I really miss them.”
Over the last couple of days, Decker was back in her hometown.
“I came home a couple days ago to Eagle River to visit with my grandpa, and my brother came home from California and my parents are here and it’s just been so fun,” Decker said, talking about their together-time on the lake. She also expressed how proud she is that her store, Natalie Decker Apparel, has put a mark on the community she grew up in.
“To be able to visit and go see it, I think that’s so wonderful. Hearing stories about people coming in and buying t-shirts and how excited they are that the store is there, it makes me really happy.”
Decker is in her second year racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Ourdoors Truck Series, this year driving her No. 44 Chevrolet Silverado for Niece Motorsports.
“I am still a rookie, technically. I haven’t been to a lot of these race tracks, and so when I show up, I just have to show up and race, so I get no practice. It’s definitely difficult, but it is what it is, and everyone has it the same way so you just got to do your best.
When I asked Decker about her plans for the future and if she would be sticking with the truck series or move up to the Xfinity Series, she said it all depends.
“On sponsorship and teams. I’m not too sure with this pandemic happening. It changed a lot of people’s paths and knowing what they’re going to do because we’re still just waiting on what races are coming out and where we’re going to be racing and things like that,” Decker explained. “It’s all just going to depend on how the end of the year goes.”
Decker has been joined on the track by fellow central Wisconsin native Derek Kraus of Stratford.
“It’s so amazing to see him at the track. We were just at Charlotte. That was my first race back since the whole quarantine and pandemic, and that was his first race back, and he’s never been on that track before. He was a complete rookie going in and had to start that race without having one lap on the track,” she said. “And it was so cool to see him there knowing that we’ve grown up here in Wisconsin, racing super late models together, and I was just so happy to see that he was there.”
Decker’s next race will be at Pocono Speedway on June 27.