Recently I caught up with David Gilliland Racing/ Crosley rookie driver Natalie Decker on the NGOTS series West Coast swing. While she is a rookie in the NGOTS, she is by no means a rookie racer.
She comes from a racing family where everyone in her family were racers, mostly snow mobiles up there in Wisconsin, eh!
Herein lies the questions that I posed to Natalie and the answers that she had. It is my hope that you may gain a little insight into this young ambitious race car driver.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: Natalie, to help my readers know your route to this level of racing can you please tell us how you got involved in racing?
Natalie Decker: How I got involved in racing is through my dad, who owns a snow mobile race track. My dad and his three brothers all raced snow mobiles while I was growing up. So I was always around racing. I started racing in go karts when I was nine, and I knew when I was younger that I wanted to race. I would watch NASCAR every weekend with my dad and mom. We were big fans.
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to race, especially after my first go kart race, I was was hooked. I really begged my dad to buy be me a go kart, and he finally did for my ninth birthday.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: So did you ever try racing snow mobiles?
Natalie Decker: Yes, I tried snow mobiles once when I was four years old. But I don’t even count that as a race! (She breaks out into laughter)
WOMR: What happened?
ND: I don’t know, I think that I was just too young. I would practice everyday by myself after school holding it wide open because the sleds were really really slow. When it came time to race I think that I got scared with all those sleds lined up. When the green flag dropped I went about ten feet, stopped, took my helmet off, and told my dad that I was done!
WOMR: Your bothers didn’t harass you?
ND: Yeah my brother, who was really good racing snow mobiles, did. He tried go karts but stuck with snow mobiles, hockey, and snow boarding. Now he is a model and lives in LA!
WOMR: In doing my research about you I found that there is some kind of family connection with Danica Patrick. Can you explain what that is?
ND: Well, my dad raced snow mobiles against Danica’s dad growing up. Also my aunt raced snow mobiles and her who crew was females. One of the crew members was Danica’s mom. So my aunt set up Danica’s mom and dad up on a date. So that is how her parents met each other. Danica’s middle name is Sue named after my aunt. I am really close with Danica’s parents, but I do not know her (Danica) very well at all. I have only met Danica a few times, but I am really close with her parents.
WOMR: Some of our readers may not be too knowledgeable about your ARCA experience. Could you elaborate on that for us?
ND: Two years ago I did seven races in the ARCA Series and did a full season in 2018. I learned really a lot in ARCA. It was fun to sign a deal for three races that turned into seven races in 2017. That seven race deal led to a full season in ARCA for 2018. It is really cool to see how that has now grown into my deal here with DRG/Crosley Racing in the Truck Series.
WOMR: Is Toyota helping to back your racing venture?
ND: Yes, Toyota has allowed me to get into their simulator for simulator training. I got to do that before I came out to Las Vegas. Also they have helped with media training and things like that. It has been really cool and fun.
WOMR: How did this deal come together with David Gilliland?
ND: So about half way through last year we wanted to try to do some truck races. I would see David Gilliland’s ARCA team at the track, and they were always really, really fast. I knew that they did K&N East, ARCA and Truck racing, so I know a little bit about their team. I brought DGR/Crosley up to my sponsor that maybe we should meet with them to see what their about. The first meeting was just my sponsor and David talking. After that meeting we all went down to David’s shop and met with the whole organization. I knew from the very first meeting with David that I liked him. I liked his passion about racing. Once I met everyone on the team I just knew that it was a great fit. I am really glad that I am part of this race team.
WOMR: Being a female in a male dominated sport, what has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?
ND: The biggest obstacle so far is just finding sponsorship. It is very difficult and hard to come by. Just as important is trying to find sponsorship that is the right fit. You may find sponsorship but it just may not be the right fit for you.
When I first started racing stock cars I was 12 years old and I didn’t know that it was unusual for girls to race. One of the things that was difficult for me was that I didn’t go to prom, or do much dating in my high school years because I was racing.
WOMR: Every race car driver seems to have a race circled on their calendar that they want to win, or do exceptionally well there. Do you have a race that you have circled on your calendar?
ND: (With a little quick soul searching) Oh gosh, Bristol. It is Bristol. I have never even been there, but ever since I was young I have wanted to win at Bristol. So this year I get to go there as a racer twice and if I could win there that would be so cool!
WOMR: Natalie, if you weren’t a race car driver what would you be doing to pay the bills?
ND: I think that I would to be a pilot, a fighter pilot. Not sure if I would want to go into the Air Force and be a fighter pilot. But I would want to do something with airplanes.
WOMR: I did a little google research, and I know that you are not that far from Green Bay. Likewise, you were not that far from Minneapolis. So are you a Viking or a Cheese Head?
ND: (Said quickly and with conviction) A Cheese Head! I gotta stay with the Packers. I have only been to one NFL game and it was in Chicago at a Bears game complete with a tornado in the area!
WOMR: I know that you are a very young lady, but what are you most proud of right now?
ND: I most proud of the people that I have met, the places that I have gotten to go to, and the experiences that I have had at such a young age. When I was in high school I was able to go to all these different places to race, then to come back to school and hang out with my friends is such a cool experience. Not many people my age have gotten to have those experiences, and I am really proud of that.
WOMR: You talked about sponsors a little earlier and how difficult it is to find one that is a good fit. If a sponsor came to you and Natalie I am willing to fund the rest of your racing career, but there are two things that you must do. You must wear a red clown nose and a multi colored wig at all times would you sign the deal?
ND: (She began laughing) I don’t know. I would have to think about that. (More giggles and laughter) Would it be a wig? I would have to think about that!
WOMR: Which one would be the one you would have to think about, the nose or the wig?
ND: The wig. Would I have to wear it all the time? Oh man, that is a tough question! Yeah I guess that I would do it.
WOMR: What do you do when you are working on your redneck?
ND: On my days off, I don’t know. I guess training for the next race, since there are no days off. If I am not racing, I am usually at a race track.
I learned a lot from this interview with this up and coming NGOTS driver. She is a racer through and through, and comes to it honestly in her blood. I also felt her passion and drive to succeed in this male dominated sport. Additionally, Natalie seems to be a well grounded young woman and I might add, a very good sense of humor!
You might keep your eyes on this young driver, good things are likely to come her way in the very near future.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!