After setting her eyes on the course at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wis., at the age of 10, Natalie Decker of Eagle River fell in love. 

She had just recently moved up in classes in her young go-kart racing career and found herself taking laps on the “little” course. However, Decker had her eyes and heart set on something more — the 14-turn, 4-mile beauty that is Road America’s main attraction.

“I just remember thinking how cool the big track was and hopefully one day I could be driving on that,” reminisced Decker. “I remember sneaking my golf cart with all my friends I raced go-karts with out on the big track just so we could drive around on it. We got in so much trouble, but it was worth it!”

Despite getting in trouble, it never deterred her, in fact, it might have fueled her fire even more, as is par for the course when one is told they can’t do something. 

With her sights set on the NASCAR top series, Decker spent a handful of times on the kart course at Road America before she made it known that she, in fact, belonged on the “big” track.

In August of 2017, Decker was only 20 years old and competing in the ARCA series as she found herself back at the track she grew up loving as a youth.

After starting 16th in the 28-car field, she battled her way to a seventh-place finish. With her family and friends in attendance, eyes were on one person — the young Decker. But even more impressed was long-time family friend Tony Ave. 

Ave let Decker and her family know that he wanted to have her race in the Trans-Am Series with his team for a few races the following season. Then, almost a year after her ARCA race at Road America, on Aug. 25, 2018, the time had come for her first time in the Trans-Am car. 

This time, it was full throttle mode, racing in her N29 Technologies sponsored 850-horsepower Corvette in the Trans-Am Series for Ave Motorsports.

“Tony has been a friend of my dad’s for a long time,” explained Decker. “They raced together when they were racing snowmobiles. It’s really cool because I knew him when he was a family friend and now getting to race with him and work with him. He’s an amazing road racer.” 

In that 2018 race, she climbed all the way into ninth position before a mechanical issue stalled her progress and she had to settle for a 15th-place finish.

This time she’s back for more, with a load more experience under her belt. That included a Trans-Am Series race at Sebring International Raceway in Florida earlier this year. Now Decker is excited to get back in the Corvette and do what she loves.

“There’s a huge difference, a huge difference in the car and a big difference in the way you drive the race track. Road racing is completely different than oval racing, but it still has some similarities,” said Decker. “I love oval racing. It’s my dream to be in the top level of NASCAR, but to be able to go road race and drive this Trans-Am is so much fun and it does teach me a lot.”

The climb in the ranks of racing for Decker this season has taken on a life of its own. From a stint in Europe testing in the W-Series to her rookie season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for DGR-Crosley, it has been a busy year to say the least. 

Now it’s back to Road America this weekend.

“Growing up there, racing karts, it’s made me who I am today. I raced at a lot of different tracks growing up, and Road America was one I went to. To be able to do that as a kid, it made me fall in love with racing and fall in love with the time I got to spend with my family at the track,” she said.

Race fans can find Decker’s full race schedule on nataliedeckerinc.com.