I want to preface this article by saying that I don’t like putting down young driver’s careers, but I think that Natalie Decker is a special case that I really want to address. Decker is a driver with a large fan base and when I noticed just how many people were rooting for her, I of course, assumed she must be talented.
I know that anytime women run in NASCAR it’s always exciting to watch their careers, but she had more of a following than Hailie Deegan had at that point 2-years ago, which was insane to me.
I was watching the ARCA race at Gateway in 2018 when I first saw her and was watching as comment sections in the stream kept asking about Natalie Decker. “Where’s Natalie?” “How’s Natalie doing?” It made me start watching her and I kept up with her placing in the field until she crashed out.
Once she was out of the race I went and looked up her stats which were mediocre to horrid for a driver racing for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA series. While looking into her, I stumbled upon her Instagram account, and that was when I started to realize where the large fan base comes from.
Decker has a large following on Instagram and other social media platforms because she has a little bit of a side hustle as an Instagram model. Not knocking this at all, she’s a beautiful woman and I’m not going to knock anyone for showing themselves off. But now having all these men follow her so closely makes more sense. It’s creepy, but it makes sense.
Problem is, and I’m going to be blunt: Natalie Decker is not a good race car driver.
I haven’t seen a driver do so bad in good equipment since J.J. Yeley was crashing out of every other race at Joe Gibbs Racing.
That season in ARCA:
Tops Fives: 2
Top Tens: 9
Average finish: 12th
Again, she was driving for Venturini Motorsports which is arguably one of the best teams you can hope to race for in ARCA. These races usually only have 20-24 cars in the field at each race, so her average finish of 12th puts her in the dead center of the pack every race. She had 9 top tens, but not even in half the races she ran.
Despite this abysmal effort, she received a promotion in the form of a Truck Series ride from DGR-Crosley Racing, another good team. A huge mistake, as she clearly was not ready to make the jump up.
As you could expect, the results were even worse.
Top Fives: 0
Top Tens: 0
Average Finish: 22nd
She was not even able to relevant at any point in her Truck season debut. So why does she continue to get job opportunities? The same reason most bad drivers are able to stay in the sport, they have a sponsor who refuses to drop them.
Decker as been backed by N29 Technologies for her entire career. I’m not sure of the origin of the connection, but they seem intent on keeping her behind the wheel as they followed her to Niece Motorsports for this season.
Niece is still good equipment that a driver can win in, so she’s still being given a great opportunity. Yes, she finished 5th at Daytona to start off the year, but then followed that up with a 21st place finish in Vegas. So no true sign of improvement to speak of yet.
I hate tearing down a driver like this, and I know that I’m coming off harsh. But I have a passion for the big issue in NASCAR which is the fact that good drivers get overlooked every day in favor of bad ones just simply because of sponsorship. Natalie Decker doesn’t deserve the truck she’s been given, but there is probably someone else who deserves it but will never get it because they don’t have a major sponsor backing them.
Decker needs to step back down into ARCA where she was at least earning decent finishes and hone her skills there. I do not believe we will ever see her in the Cup Series. I appreciate her passion for racing though and maybe if she takes the time to learn to drive at the NASCAR level she could make the jump back to Trucks. I don’t think we will ever see her as a championship-contending driver at any level, but she can at least become relevant if she slows her career pace down and takes time to develop.