In a rain-shortened race at Talladega, Natalie Decker completed her first NASCAR Xfinity race of her career, as she worked her way up the order in a clean run at her first race with Our Motorsport.
23-year old NASCAR driver Natalie Decker took her first Xfinity Series chequered flag at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, as she was back behind the wheel of the #23 Chevrolet for her second race of the season.
Decker had announced a part-time campaign in the series after having competed in 2019 and 2020 in the Truck series, for DGR Crosley and Niece Motorsport. Making her Xfinity debut at the season opener at Daytona, the lady from Wisconsin was unfortunately crashed out on the first lap.
As announced last week, Our Motorsports signed Decker from Reaume Brothers Racing, after the team from North Carolina - which also lines up the #02 Chevy of Brett Moffitt - had acquired the #23 Camaro.
Our Motorsports confirmed that Natalie will compete in four rounds this season, starting from the Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Speedway.
"I’m so ready to be back in the 23 car,” Decker said. “I love Talladega and I’m so happy it’s on my schedule this year. I will be with a new team, Our Motorsports, so there will be some challenges because this will be our first race together."
Austin Cindric took off from pole position, but after a few meters, it was Daniel Hemric to clinch the top spot. Natalie Decker started from P38.
In a clean Stage 1 with no major incidents to interrupt the action, Justin Haley climbed the order and conquered the point for the stage win, ahead of Jeb Burton and Noah Gragson in an exciting final lap before the break.
The race resumed with Jeb Burton leading the pack and the driver of the #10 Chevrolet remained on top with his teammate Haley right behind.
At the wheel of the #23 Chevrolet, Natalie Decker recovered ten positions from the race starting spot and ran the first laps of the second stage in 28th place.
Cindric tried to catch up with the leading duo and, mid-way through the second stage, he was able to move up into the lead. Nevertheless, a final lap attempt by Noah Gragson gave the Stage 2 victory to the latter, while Decker had a clean run and finished the second race segment in 35th place.
2020 Series champion Cindric took the lead at the restart, while the anticipated rain started to make its appearance over the sky at the famous Talladega oval.
The last 30 laps before the chequered flag saw the only caution of the race: Graf picked up a tire cut and collected Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Garrett in a big crash at Turn 2.
Jeb Burton had managed to claim the top of the standings just before the yellow flag, ultimately handing him the victory of the Talladega round. The race was in fact stopped at lap 91 of 113 for the worsening weather conditions, with Cindric and Aj Allmendiger to round out the Top 3.
Natalie Decker further worked her way up the order and finished her first race in the series in P24.
"I had a great time at Talladega!" - she said. "I was with a new team so it was our first race together."
"The car was fast and we were playing our strategy of hanging in the back to try and miss the big one. Rain came sooner than we thought and ended the race short so we never got the opportunity to race hard. We were 24th when they called the race. I’m really happy with how the whole weekend went."
The next Xfinity race in Natalie Decker's 2021 schedule will be at Nashville Superspeedway, on June 19th.