Preview: ARCA Menards gets underway at Daytona
The two NASCAR brightest female hopefuls Hailie Deegan and Natalie Decker will line-up on the grid of the Lucas Oil 200 for the ARCA Menards season opener at Daytona.
The Daytona International Superspeedway is ready to host the Lucas Oil 200 event, traditionally the first round of the ARCA Menards championship. For its 2020 edition, two of the most anticipated female upcoming stars, Hailie Deegan and Natalie Decker, will take part in the season opener.
Coming from a couple of impressive K&N Pro Series seasons - in 2018 she was able to conquer the first historical victory for a woman - Deegan confirmed her high-profile status in 2019, adding to her K&N West Pro Series resumé two more wins in Las Vegas and Colorado, ending third in the final championship standings. The California-native proved to be ready for the next big step of her young career: she will compete in her first full-season ARCA Menards Series, driving for the DGR Crosley team. Deegan also announced she has now become a member of the Ford Performace development program.
Nevertheless, this will not be Deegan's all-time debut in a ARCA event: in 2019 she in fact entered six races at the wheel of the Venturini Motorsport's Toyota, claiming four top-ten finishes and a fifth place in Indianapolis as her best result.
The 18-year old American will be back at Daytona after her IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge debut a few weekends ago, and will do so behind the wheel of the #4 DGR Crosley Ford, as she starts the ARCA Menards season after last month's test, where she immediately got up to speed and showed promising pace.
"The Daytona test last month was great." - Deegan commented. "I've never been able to drive a car wide open for laps at a time. That's something that I'm not used to. I'm used to the quarter-to-half-mile race tracks where you are super up on the wheel and super aggressive. With this different driving style, and drafting, there is just so much more to learn and so much I can improve on to get better and more knowledgeable" - she added.
Natalie Decker will make her return to the ARCA Menards opener at Daytona, going back to the same place where she clinched the remarkable pole win in the 2018 edition.
Decker went on to complete the race in fifth position, which still stands as her personal best result in the championship so far.
The 22-year old lady from Wisconsin completed her last ARCA full season in seventh in the general standings, adding to the Florida first round eight top-ten finishes. It was also the season where she suffered a hernia injury.
In 2019, Decker switched her main focus to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, but she still made two appearences in the ARCA sanctioned championship at Daytona, ending sixth, and at Talledega Superspeedway, behind the wheel of the #54 DGR Crosley Toyota.
For this 2020 Lucas Oil 200 event, Natalie will join the Ken Schrader Racing team and Fury Race Cars, as she looks forward to prove herself once again as one of the leading protagonists on the Daytona Superspeedway racetrack.
"I'm so thankful and honored to have the opportunity to drive for these racing icons!" - said Natalie Decker. "I will be learning so much and from some of the best".
Team owner and 18-times ARCA race winner Ken Schrader also expressed his satisfaction in having Natalie onboard, as the former driver is confident that together, and with the support of Fury Race Cars, his team can bring home a positive result.
“We are obviously very excited to have Natalie in the seat for the Daytona race! With her previous ARCA experience, we are pulling in with one of the more experienced drivers in the field,” said Schrader.
“In years past, we have won 3 times, but you’re only as good as that day. So much of the finish depends on staying clean and we're going to try really hard to give her what she needs.”
Natalie Decker will also rely on the experience of Tony Eury Jr., who worked as a crew chief for Danica Patrick, among the others.
Deegan and Decker won't be the only ladies on track though: Daytona newcomer Dominique Van Wieringen will join the field in the #30 Rette Jones Racing Ford. The 24-year old Canadian already made headlines in mid-January, as she led the combined test speeds on the famous tri-oval.
A former K&N Pro Series East racer, Van Wieringen is set to make her ARCA Menards series debut this Saturday.
The first ARCA Menards 2020 round will get underway on Friday with the two practice sessions, followed by the Saturday qualifying at 12.30 p.m (ET).
The green flag will wave on the Daytona International Superspeedway for the race start at 4.45 p.m. (ET).
In Natalie's words:
“I’m so thankful and honored to have the opportunity to drive for these racing icons! I will be learning so much and from some of the best!”
Ph Credits: Hoosierguy Jeff - CC licence