By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
As Natalie Decker continues to recover from her recent surgery, she will start the ARCA Racing Series General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 on Friday at Pocono Raceway but yield the wheel of her No. 25 Toyota on Lap 1. Brennan Poole has been named as the relief driver and will run the remainder of the race in place of Decker.
Last Friday, Decker underwent successful hernia surgery at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte to repair a small tear in her abdomen and while recovery is progressing according to schedule, she is still too sore to complete the entire distance on Friday at Pocono.
Decker first experienced symptoms after last month’s ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway. Given the green light by her tending physician, Dr. Kent Kercher, Decker competed in the next two races at Toledo Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, where she finished 7th and 15th, respectively.
The 20-year-old driver was on hand with the team for Wednesday’s open test session at the 2.5-mile track with the moniker “The Tricky Triangle.” Decker is tied with Chase Purdy for the fifth spot in the ARCA driver standings heading in to Pocono.
Decker made her series superspeedway debut at Pocono in 2017 and picked up her first ARCA top-10 in last year’s July race at the track.
“I’m really bummed about not racing at Pocono. I was really looking forward to coming back here and improving on last year’s finish. It just wasn’t meant to be. The last thing I want to do is push myself too hard and take a chance of missing more races,” said Decker.
Per the ARCA rule book, a driver and vehicle must roll off the starting grid and take the initial green flag to receive championship points. Any driver racing a vehicle in a race may have a relief driver, but the original driver must take the green flag. In addition, the ARCA rules award 250 bonus points to each driver who competes in 5-race segments (Event #1-5 as run; Event #6-10 as run, etc.). Decker needs to start the race to remain in contention for a top-five finish in the championship standings.
Poole tested the No. 25 Toyota in Wednesday’s test session, clocking in seventh on the speed chart with a best lap of 168.083 mph.
Poole has made 35 starts in the ARCA Series, all with Venturini Motorsports, and recorded six victories, 18 top-five and 27 top-10 finishes. Poole’s last start in the series came in 2014 at Kentucky Speedway, where he went to victory lane in the team’s No. 15 Toyota.
More recently, Poole competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, running the full season in 2016 and 2017 in the No. 48 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. The Woodlands, Texas native recorded eight top-five and 34 top-10 results over the course of 66 starts.
The 27-year-old driver participated in the XFINITY Series open test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway in early May in place of the suspended Spencer Gallagher. While Poole’s name was above the door of the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet and on his GMS Racing firesuit, he has not been announced as the driver for any races.
“Brennan (Poole) was a natural fit to fill in at Pocono. Not only will he do a great job representing my sponsors – N29 and Yamaha Power Products, but he has history with Venturini Motorsports and has had a bunch of success on this track over the years. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’m still excited to be at the track – but it’s going to be a little weird watching from the pit box instead of from behind the wheel.”