Danica Patrick Prepares for Retirement; Replacements Ready
Daytona Beach, Fla.- When Danica Patrick announced her retirement from racing, it left many people wondering about the future of women in the sport, and who would replace Patrick.
That question is soon to be answered once this season starts at the Daytona International Speedway. Each year the Automobile Racing Club of America, (ARCA) and NASCAR begin each season at Daytona. Both racing series will seem a little bit different.
Patrick will be competing in only two races this season, “the Great American Race” - the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The ARCA series will see the emergence of two female racers, Natalie Deck and Leilani Munter.
This season will be Decker’s first full-time season in the ARCA Series. There still is a lot of unknowns for Decker. She attempted to make her first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the no. 14 MAKE Motorsports entry on April 2, 2016, in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
Decker joined her cousins Paige Decker and Claire Decker in attempting to make the field for the race. Decker was 38th fastest in qualifying and her MAKE Motorsports entry did not make the field. Decker was a 2016 Alan Kulwicki Driver Development competition and 2015 Drive for Diversity participant.
Decker begged her competitor father for a go kart and received one at the age of nine. Decker won four karting championships in two years. She began racing in 4-cylinder modified stock cars as a 12-year-old.
In 2011, she moved up to the Super Stock class and won the 2012 class championship at Marshfield Motor Speedway. Decker began racing in the ARCA Midwest Tour and took the 2013 Rookie of the Year by finishing third in points. She also took third that season in a three-race Midwest Truck Series at Madison International Speedway.
In 2014, she won seven limited late model features and two super late model features. Leilani Munter brings a lot of attention to the ARCA series as well. Just like Decker, Munter has paid her dues by racing in various series such as the Alison Legacy Series, NASCAR Weekly Racing Series and the IndyCar Series.
In 2007, Munter became the fourth woman in history to compete in the Indy Pro Series, which is the development league of the IndyCar Series. But, that’s just the racing side of Munter. Not only is Munter an environmentalist, she is also vegan. She was born and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, earned a degree in biology from the University of California, San Diego.
She blogs in the green section of the Huffington Post and became the first Ambassador for the National Wildlife Federation in 2008 and went to Capitol Hill to lobby for environmental legislation. In 2010, she was named by Discovery Channel’s Planet Green Network as the #1 Eco Athlete in the world, beating out Lance Armstrong for the top spot.
Munter was one of the first celebrity activists to visit the BP Oil Spill. She arrived in Venice, Louisiana on May 2, 10 days after the Deepwater Horizon sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and the same day President Barack Obama arrived.
She spent a week at the spill, documenting her experience there. On July 13, 2010, Munter returned and toured areas of Louisiana affected by the BP Oil Spill as part of a Sierra Club sponsored event involving 10 current and former athletes, which included tennis star Chanda Rubin, Olympic skier Stacey Cook and NFL stars Ovie Mughelli and Mike Alstott.
Once Danica Patrick crosses the finish line on the last lap of her last race during the Daytona 500, there will be no doubt that the sport will be in good hands with Decker and Munter.