Connect with us


Natalie Decker: Racing, Resiliency and Inspiring Triumphs

Natalie Decker continues to live and realize her dreams as she showcased at Daytona. (Photo: Natalie Decker Inc.)

At age 26, Natalie Decker has pursued her dreams in motorsports for the past 14 years. Making her mark initially in go-karts, the Eagle River, Wisconsin native did not search far for inspiration with her desired career path.

“I grew up in a racing family,” Decker said. “My dad and his three brothers raced everything and anything. But they are most famous for snowmobile racing. I grew a love for motorsports at a young age and I knew that this was a path I wanted to take since I was a young girl.”

Winning four track championships in go-karts, Decker worked her way up to stock cars, becoming a Central Wisconsin Super Stock Association champion. Graduating from the Limited Late Model ranks to Midwest Truck Tour to Super Late Models in the Midwest, Decker made a name for herself as a proven, determined competitor.

Those important, formative years for Decker were indelible for her efforts racing in Trans Am and the ARCA Menards Series. In 2018, Decker won the pole for the ARCA season opener at Daytona International Speedway, placing fifth in the race and seventh in the championship standings.

As Decker worked her way up the racing ladder, she realized how pivotal it was to build meaningful connections in the big leagues of stock car racing.

“Racing in the ARCA Menards Series taught me one very important lesson in the sport and that is keep your circle small,” she shared. “There’s only so many people you can trust in this sport.”

While Decker’s tribe may be a chosen few, given the ebbs and flows of racing, it is this same group that motivates her to keep her dreams alive. Undoubtedly, Decker knows when it comes to her motorsports journey, her support system inspires her.

It takes a village as Natalie Decker can attest to with racing competitively in NASCAR. (Photo: Natalie Decker Inc.)

“I believe I have the best support system around me and that is the only reason I am still trying to fight my way through this crazy sport,” Decker said. “I couldn’t do it without my support system around me.”

Prior to the start of the 2024 season, Decker married her best friend, Derek Lemke, a fellow NASCAR competitor from Shakopee, Minnesota on New Year’s Day. Her wedding was one of the highlights of some productive times away from the track, namely with an exciting project for her new home.

“The offseason has been fun with being newly married,” Decker said. “Outside of racing, we have been working on our unfinished house. It’s a barndominium.”

As seen on Decker’s social media platform, the barndominium has been a labor of love for the newlywed couple. Nevertheless, Decker worked ardently to get back on the track, a goal she accomplished for this year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series season opener.

“The offseason has been stressful with trying to find funding for racing, but we had been working really hard,” she said. “Finally, two weeks before Daytona, we got the opportunity to be racing the No. 36 with DGM Racing.”

After securing the funding to race at Daytona with sponsor Amped Fitness, the pressure was on Decker and her No. 36 team to qualify for the race. All the cards seemed to stack up against the Wisconsinite and her hardy crew.

However, Decker and her team kept their heads up despite the challenges, responding to the bell in grand fashion.

Beyond making the big dance, Natalie Decker led seven laps and was smart and efficient in her No. 36 Amped Fitness Chevrolet Camaro entry. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

“Daytona was a wonderful weekend for my team, my sponsors and myself,” Decker observed. “Going into the weekend, we took a big risk going to the track with no owner points especially because the weather was looking really bad.

“Putting the car into the show on time was a win in itself. But overall, the whole weekend was so much fun for everybody involved and that’s what really matters when you’re putting yourself in a situation that could have been where you were going home really easily.”

In the 120-lap race, Decker led for seven laps, racing with confidence and poise. Mother Nature, the critics and intense pressure to make the show did not faze her one bit.

“I didn’t think much of it. I was very focused at the task at hand, and that was to finish the race and bring the car home in one piece,” she said. “It was so much fun being there all weekend, even with the rain delays.”

Upon reflection, Decker took the rainy weather in stride, even if it meant having the season opener moved from Saturday night to Monday morning and eventually Monday night after the 66th DAYTONA 500.

“I would do it over and over again even if we had to stay there for a week,” she said with a chuckle.

Decker’s optimism is as genuine as her love and desire to be more than just a presence in racing. She wants to be in it for the long haul not just for personal glory, even when it tests her.

“Racing is all we know,” Decker said. “We love this sport even during the bad times. But it does get difficult and some days, I do feel like giving up. Finding funding to go racing is the hardest part of this sport.

“The only thing that keeps me going is my family. I am surrounded by people that love me.”

That love and devotion from Decker’s family and support system is not exclusive to racing. Given Decker’s genuine engagement with fans and social media, she uses her platform to be an advocate for those managing life with rheumatoid arthritis.

“Living with an autoimmune disease has its ups and downs,” she shared. “But overall, I just want to be a voice for those who go through the same difficulties as I do with everyday tasks. So many people don’t understand how much this can affect your life and I want to educate those people.”

From being a Chronic Strength Champion to role model for young women on social media, Decker takes pride in seeing women who work hard toward meaningful success.

It was Monday night lights for Natalie Decker when she led for seven laps at Daytona. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

“I love seeing women do what makes them happy and that’s what it comes down to,” she explained. “Women can do anything, from being an athlete to CEO to a stay-at-home mom, as long as they are thriving and living everyday of their life.”

Certainly, Decker makes the most of each day to be happy, healthy and strong in terms of her personal and professional life. Beyond the pursuit of endorphins needed to compete at a high level in racing, she enjoys a particular routine on the treadmill that combines challenge and ability to workout for a long time period.

“There is one specific workout called 12-3-30. A YouTuber girl, her name is Lauren Giraldo, that I follow came up with this workout,” Decker shared. “You put the treadmill at an incline of 12, a speed of 3.0, and walk for 30 minutes. This workout has helped tremendously with my endurance.”

Perhaps the 12-3-30 treadmill workout paid dividends in Decker’s strong performance and result at Daytona, placing a competitive 18th for DGM Racing. By far, it was a sparkling performance for the Drive for Diversity graduate.

Although Decker continues to work toward her next starts in NASCAR, she wants to be the best and happiest version of herself, whether in the driver’s seat or a supportive wife to her husband, Derek.

Hopeful and determined, Natalie Decker wants to be back on the track soon in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

“It’s hard to envision what my career will look like five to 10 years down the road,” Decker said. “But I do have small goals leading into this year and that is to run as many NASCAR XFINITY Series races as possible and outside of XFINITY to do any race given the opportunity.

“Other than myself, I would really like to see my husband Derek do more racing. Overall, I just wanna take it day-by-day and make sure I’m waking up every day, enjoying this life that I’m living. Enjoy the journey and focus on the task at hand.”

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Natalie Decker for taking the time to talk about her DAYTONA Speedweeks efforts and her prospects for the 2024 season. Also, special thanks to Amy Decker of Natalie Decker, Inc. for making this feature story and interview possible.

Follow Natalie on her social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X and YouTube now!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *