Penalty Slows Natalie Decker’s Momentum in Vegas

Following her historical, career-best, 5th place finish at Daytona International Speedway, Natalie Decker finished 21st in Friday’s Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She suffered a costly penalty ahead of the start of stage two, which put her two laps down. She would be stuck fighting against “Lady Luck” the rest of the night to get back in the race.

Decker started the Strat 200 from the 29th position. After an early caution for Derek Kraus, after he got loose and spun around on lap 3, things went green for the rest of the stage.

After going a lap down just over midway through stage 1, Decker secured the lucky dog, as Cory Roper blocked Kyle Busch from passing him as they made the final turn to the green-and-white checkered flag. So after finishing the stage in 27th, she was able to take her free pass around the field after her stage pit stop.

As the green flag flew for the start of stage 2, Decker was in 27th on the lead lap. However, she was issued a penalty for fueling twice under the caution while being the free pass truck, which forced her to come into the pits to serve her one lap penalty as the green flag flew. She would then lose two laps and drop to 29th place.

Decker was able to battle adversity and get up to 27th as stage 2 came to a close. However, she was still two laps down and just missed out on a second lucky dog as Tate Fogleman earned that as the lone truck one lap down in 26th.

Electing to stay out under the stage break caution, Decker took a wave-around lap, scoring her just one lap down as the final stage was ready to go green. She would restart the final stage in 26th.

On lap 74, Christian Eckes got into the outside wall coming out of turn two in a single truck incident, bringing out the caution. Decker was in 26th at the time, just behind Fogleman, who once again took the free pass. She brought her No. 44 REMarkable Pillow Chevy down for four Goodyear tires and SUNOCO fuel under the caution.

As the field lined up for the restart on lap 79, Decker was in 27th, the 2nd truck one lap down, with Tyler Ankrum sitting in 26th.

Then with 45 laps to go, the caution flew again. This time it was for contact between Raphael Lassard and Daytona winner, Grant Enfinger. The lucky dog was given to Ankrum. Decker would come down for another set of four Goodyear tires and SUNOCO fuel, being scored as the lone truck one lap down in 25th.

At this point, she needed just one spurt of good luck to get her back on the lead lap to make a run for a solid finish. Spencer Boyd sat in 26th, two laps down, meaning one more caution would give Decker the free pass if positioning stayed the same. The green flag flew once again with just 39 laps to go, with Decker in 25th.

With 30 laps to go, Decker was up to 23rd, still one lap down, in desperate need of a caution. With 15 to go, Decker had fallen two laps down again, with leader Kyle Busch dominating the field.

As the checkered flag flew, Decker was scored P21 in her No. 44 REMarkable Pillow Chevy, two laps down. Had it not been for the early penalty that caused her to fight back for laps, who knows where she might have been at the end.

Nobody, though, was going to challenge Kyle Busch for the win as he took this one with a nearly 6 second lead over Johnny Sauter, and leaving just 18 trucks left on the lead lap on Friday night.

Decker will now prepare for her Trans-Am West Coast Championship Series run, with her opening race in the series scheduled for March 15th at Sonoma Raceway, with AVE Motorsports.

Her next scheduled start in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Series, is announced for the Kansas 250 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday May 30th. However, a final post after the race Friday night in Vegas, suggested she could appear in the Friday, March 27th race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Vankor 350.

Written by Adrian Beecher

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