Solid learning experience for Natalie Decker in NASCAR Xfinity Series at Nashville
At her third start in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Natalie Decker tackled the tricky Nashville Superspeedway for the first time in her career, bringing home some valuable experience for her part-time campaign.
Natalie Decker returned on the NASCAR Xfinity grid last weekend, making her third appearance in the series - and her first at the Nashville Superspeedway, which hosted the Tennessee Lottery 500 event.
"Nashville Superspeedway will be a first for me and for other young drivers. I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to make this debut opening of the track, it means a lot to me! Especially because my partner Red Street Record is from Nashville and they all will be here cheering my team on." - said Natalie Decker during the build-up to the race.
Decker returned behind the wheel of the Our Motorsports #23 Chevrolet for her after the season opener at Daytona and the Talladega round, which marked her first finish of her career in the Xfinity series after being crashed out on the first lap at Daytona. NXS Red Street Record partnered again with Decker - with Jason Crabb and Cade Thompson, both artists of the music label, supporting the young driver.
"I am really looking forward to getting back with Our Motorsports Team No. 23 and learning the Nashville Track." - continued Decker. "Our Motorsports is a very strong team and they give me a lot of support on and off the track".
The series' first appearance at the Music City in 10 years saw stockcar veteran Kyle Busch remaining on top of the leaderboard since the early moments of the race meeting, as he set the fastest lap in the practice session and went on to conquer pole position.
Natalie Decker started from 36th after a learning day at the Nashville Speedway.
Kyle Busch held the lead at the green flag, but was overtaken by Cindric. The new race leader started to go around the first lapped cars around lap 15, while the polesitter reclaimed second place moving ahead of Harrison Burton. The early gap gained in the first phases of the race would allow Cindric to win Stage 1, followed by Busch.
Natalie Decker kept her starting position and completed her first scheduled pit-stop in P36, but gained six positions at the restart and ran in 30th.
After claiming the playoff point with the Stage 1 victory, Cindric was forced to hand back to Busch the race lead at the start of Stage 2, after several drivers' chances were severely hampered by issues at the break.
Allmendinger and Yeley received penalties; Currey and Jeb Burton reported issues to their respective equipment.
Kyle Busch ran first in a Stage 2 that had the first caution of the day when Parson collided with Starr in Turn 4, hitting the wall. The Nashville event went back to green with 15 laps to go into the second stage: an great battle for second was underway between Allgaier and Hemric, while Cindric dropped a few places as he had to go low in order to avoid a contact - thus losing touch with the drivers in contention for the second place.
Wisconsin-native Natalie Decker continued her run and finished Stage 2 in P33. She restarted P30 for the final stint. Ahead, Busch led Allgaier, Hemric and Burton.
The front-runners restarted from the same positions and Kyle Busch continued to get closer to his 100th personal victory, extending his margin to a 2-second gap from his closest rivals. On the other hand, Harrison Burton and Daniel Hemric lost speed and were passed by Berry and Jones at around lap 80.
A few moments after the final round of pit-stops, Brown suffered a brake failure and crashed. At the final stop, Busch had maintained the lead, while the same could not be said for positions behind him: Allgaier, Jones and Hemric were now the pursuers. Decker was consistently running around the top 30 in a clean Stage 3 that would see the young lady moving up the order in the final stage until the chequered flag.
Allgaier tried to break Busch's dominance with 40 laps to go; he overtook the race leader after an exciting duel - but soon after his winning move, another caution halted the action due to a collision between Buford and Graf. Annet, Hemric and Cindric were protagonists of another incident at the restart.
Ultimately, Kyle Busch had the upper hand over Allgaier with 20 laps to go: not even a couple of cautions in the final ten laps - which sent the race to overtime - would deprive him of his 100th victory, as he took the chequered flag after another double-incident on the final lap. Justin Allgaier and Harrison Burton completed the top 3, while Natalie Decker recovered until the 26th place and completed her first ever race at Nashville Superspeedway.
"Yesterday was a big learning curve." - wrote Natalie. "I had a lot to overcome. This track has a lot of my weaknesses but we never gave up and I kept learning."
"It's very hard to be out of the seat for so long and then hop and be right up to speed. But yesterday we learned, got better every lap, and had fun!" - added Decker.
Natalie Decker will resume her part-time campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Road America, on the world-renowned Elkhart Lake road course in her home state of Wisconsin.
The Henry 180 event - the fourth of her currently five scheduled rounds in the series - will be contested on 3rd July.