Entering the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Greg Van Alst knew he had a fast No. 35.
On Saturday (Feb. 18), he showed it. The 41-year-old passed Canadian Jason White on the last lap and scored his first career ARCA victory.
Van Alst was so confident in his No. 35 racecar that he opted to leave the ARCA preseason test at Daytona a day early. His faith in his racecar paid dividends as the Indiana native scored his first win in his second full-time season.
“It’s everything I got,” an emotional Van Alst told FOX Sports 1. “This is the only superspeedway car we got, there was no way I was going to bring it home without the steering wheel and trophy and that was it. This is for all the short track racers out there that don’t think you can get to this level. I’ve worked my ass off to get here and we did it.”
Polesitter Connor Mosack rebounded from a spin to finish second.
Venturini Motorsports won five straight ARCA races at Daytona, but the team didn’t display race-winning speed for most of the 80-lap race. Amber Balcaen and Jesse Love were the highest-running drivers for the team in sixth and seventh, respectively.
At the 2.5-mile superspeedway, there were seven cautions, although The Big One never really ensued.
The chaos started within the first 10 laps when Scott Melton received a bump draft gone wrong from Bryce Haugeberg. Melton crashed out of the ARCA race, his second straight DNF at a superspeedway as he was injured in the 2022 event at Talladega Superspeedway.
“It’s absolutely stupid,” Melton said. “It’s insane. Lap six, seven, what’s the point? He hit me three times. First time it was straight up, second time it was a bit in the … left rear … . Third time he hooked me straight into the wall. Six or seven laps in, my crew have busted their butts for a year to put that car together, man. We’ve worked four years to get here to be up front where we belong. We finally got a car that’s running [well] and somebody on lap six or lap seven … I’m speechless.
“Up front, it’s a little bit crazy but that’s just the nature of the beast here. I mean, with so much air, things happen really fast but you need to know how to run not people over. I’m very frustrated.”
Then with about 10 laps to go until the competition caution at lap 40, the field passed lapped AJ Moyer. However, everyone driving to avoid him caused Love and Tim Richmond to spin, with Richmond receiving the worst damage as he wound up with a 36th-place DNF.
Curiously, during one of the caution flag periods, Ed Pompa spun his No. 10. He then struggled to get his racecar turned around, even causing the TV broadcasters to question what happened. Pompa came home on the lead lap in 22nd place.
After racing at Daytona, ARCA next heads to Phoenix Raceway. The second event on the ARCA circuit is a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series West. It will take place on Friday, March 10 at 8 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 2 and available on FloRacing.
About the author
Mark Kristl joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is the site's ARCA Menards Series editor. Kristl is also an Eagle Scout and a proud University of Dayton alum.
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