The old clay track at Sycamore Speedway has been running car races dating back to 1960. Yet, despite its long and proud racing tradition, this past season marked the very first time that a woman won the full-size demolition championship.
The woman who literally smashed and crashed the gender gap is a petite 30-something redhead named Megan Decker—and it’s not surprising if her last name rings a bell because the surname “Decker” is well known in racing circles everywhere from Sycamore Speedway to The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet.
When it comes to Sycamore Speedway, there’s been a Decker picking up the full-size demolition hardware at championship banquets since 2009. Her 64-year old father, Jerry, won it in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014 with brother Ryan taking the honors in 2010 and 2013.
While Decker is justifiably proud of her accomplishment she said, “This season was all thanks to my dad. He gave me the motivation and tools to win. Sure, I did the driving but without the “oldest demo champ,” it wouldn’t have been possible.” She also, “loved how much closer the season brought us together.”
Decker raced everything from a 1985 Mercury Wagon and a 1993 Lincoln Town Car to a 1972 Mark IV and a 1993 Buick Roadmaster Wagon. With such a diverse fleet of almost dead cars at her disposal, she said that her dad’s advice was invaluable as he “was great with pointers from car to car.” She added, “I’m sure I would’ve figured it out but it was nice having my dad in my corner!”
Her dad might have been in her corner but she was running against her brother, Ryan, each week. She said, “When I first started out, it was keep the nose clean and go for axle shots if you can. It’s kind of ironic because the first demo I lost, he took out my rear axle!”
Decker said that, “you don’t have any friends in the pits, but there’s definitely a demo family outside of it. “ This was seconded by some of her male competitors including her brother who told her, “It’s always a rush to be able to demo against family and especially your sister. I loved it and you are a true competitor. Being beat out by you means the same as being beat by one of the guys. I’m very proud of you and you kicked ass out there.”
Another on-track adversary, Andrew Sherman told Decker that, “I’m happy for you winning especially because you’re the first girl, but now everyone is going to think of you as a threat.”
While Decker had an “amazing group of guys to smash with all season,” she was also awe-struck by the response that she received from young female fans in the stands. She said, “After one of my wins, I had a bunch of girls in the stands taking pictures with me and my trophy. There were all about girl power. Knowing that I can give little girls that feeling that they can do anything the boys can is an amazing feeling!”
Decker also loves the rush that comes from racing demo cars. She said, “I love going fast and wrecking stuff. There’s nothing that really matches the adrenaline rush you get from being in a demo car. It’s like an addiction with no cure but to do it more. You build up all the aggression from normal life stresses and release them in the pits.”
She said that her high point of the season was running one of the compact demos while her friend was away on vacation. She said, “I was so humbled that he came to me to run for him so I couldn’t say no. “ Decker was hesitant due to the fact that “compact demos hurt a lot more than full-size demos and I honestly don’t like running them” but she went ahead for her friend.
Decker continued by saying, “Those guys were out for blood that night. Truthfully, half way through, I wanted to quit. I kept bouncing my head off the center post with almost every hit. But I am not a quitter and wanted nothing more than to win that demo for my friend. I prevailed and ended up winning.”
Decker added that, “The car that I demoed had nothing left” and said, “This demo gave me the confidence as a driver and reassured myself that I can do it, without anyone out there with me, I can beat a field of guys!”
Having a car with nothing left is old hat to Decker who started running demos in 2008 “with wrecked cars that were usually on their last leg.” When preparations for the 2015 season began, it was the first time that she actually chased a demo championship after first consulting with her dad. She said, “ I never thought I would win a demo, let along a championship, but he had faith in me. I couldn’t let him down!”
In addition to strengthening the bond with her dad, the champ was also extremely proud to be alongside the “Wrecker Deckers” in the pits this season. Her mom, Christine, and son, Carlos also played an integral role in her championship run as they did everything from cheering her on in the stands to filming on-track action.
She summed up the Decker’s deep love of racing when she said,”Some families go out to the movies and dinner on a Friday night, our family goes to Sycamore!”