Race Weekend Central

Greg Van Alst Celebrates 1st ARCA Win With Pizza, Donuts

The 2023 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway was the only series that race weekend to end with a green-flag finish. When the checkered flag waved, Greg Van Alst emerged victoriously from his self-owned No. 35.

The 41-year-old captured his first ARCA victory.

For the Anderson, Indiana-native, it has been a surreal experience. While thrust into the spotlight, Van Alst finally began to thoroughly enjoy his win on Tuesday (Feb. 21). The reason? He’s the hauler driver, so he drove it home on Sunday and Monday.

“I kind of felt like I was disconnected from the world when I was the center of it. Hadn’t been able to look through it and enjoy everything,” Van Alst told Frontstretch.

See also
Greg Van Alst Wins Daytona for 1st Career ARCA Victory

Van Alst led six of the race’s 80 laps, and made his race-winning pass on the final lap.

“Coming to the restart, I was thinking, ‘This is exactly where I want to be because I was on the inside line,’” Van Alst said. “My spotter and I had a conversation. He was telling me, ‘Hey, this race is only won on the inside line, this is where you want to be. I think we’re in a good spot; we’re just going to have to time the runs.’ It was a pep talk. He is very calm.

“We took the green and my goal was to push and push and push the No. 44 [Jason White] to get him out front to where all I had to do was get around one car. And we stayed side-by-side until we came off turn 4 for the white flag and I was like, ‘I got to get to his rear bumper.’ I was able to engage and lock on which helped. And I unlocked from him going across the tri-oval and I let him get out there. And the goal was to get back to his rear bumper coming off our turn 2. And got the run on him going into turn 2 and got to him, shoved him out again and started trail-braking.

“I felt the move was coming when I felt Connor [Mosack] when he engaged, but I thought it was kind of early but I had to go because I had too much momentum,” Van Alst continued. “I pulled down and side-drafted the No. 44 and I think that sucked him back pretty hard. And as I’m doing that, I’m also watching my mirror and the No. 18 makes a little bit of a move. I go with him and I felt the air engage with him. At that point, I knew it was over because, with the ARCA racecars and the air, you have to plan your move about a mile in advance.”

Although Van Alst knew he won the race, he stayed on the gas for the beginning of the cooldown lap.

“I didn’t lift until the entry to turn 1 and that’s 100% because of what happened to us last year.”

In the 2022 edition, while under caution, Dave Mader III slowed too late and crashed into Van Alst. The incident maimed Van Alst’s chances for victory, ultimately relegating him to a 22nd-place showing, one lap down.

“I knew we were coming to the checkered and I didn’t know what was happening behind me,” Van Alst said. “So I wanted to make sure everyone was paying attention and I didn’t want to wreck after the checkers and that’s honestly what was going through my mind. I wanted to make sure I cleared everybody.”

Van Alst’s journey to ARCA victory lane began when he won the 2019 ASA/CRA Super Series championship, a Midwest-based super late model series. The Daytona victory trumps the CRA title, but the Hoosier is glad his racing career has come full circle.

“One of the driving things for that championship was the Road to Daytona program,” Van Alst said.

As part of the championship prize, the CRA champion receives a berth into ARCA’s Road to Daytona program where the winner tests an ARCA racecar at Daytona in the series’ preseason test.

“As I said, a guy like me isn’t even supposed to be racing at Daytona, right?!,” he said. “I’m a short track guy. One of the reasons I wanted to win the championship so badly is because I just wanted to be able to drive a car at Daytona. I was almost done racing at the end of 2018. For the 2019 season, that’s when Chris Barkdull and his company CB Fabricating really stepped up to help us and gave us the motivation to keep plugging.”

Upon climbing out of his No. 35 at the finish line, Van Alst gave an emotionally-charged post-race speech.

“That was all raw emotion,” he says. “When we were racing for our 2019 championship, they were announcing the drivers eligible for the championship. And they literally called us, ‘The other guys.’ They named the other three with their accomplishments, but then they said, ‘And the other guys, Greg Van Alst.’ And that statement right there has stuck with us for the last several years. And it was a very motivating minute of listening to the PA announcer and being called, ‘The other guy.’ But it does mess with your head a little bit. You think, ‘Maybe I’m not supposed to be doing this and maybe I am the other guy.’

“Like I told my guys, it’s the same group of guys that won the CRA championship. I said, ‘Guys, we’ve won races at the super late model level, we’ve won championships at the late model level and now we’ve won Daytona.’ They can call us the other guys all they want; it doesn’t sting like it used to.”

Historically, when an NFL team wins the Super Bowl, the players go to Disney World. Van Alst and his team enjoyed a different celebration.

“We went out for pizza and Krispy Kreme (donuts),” he said. “We’re not a big party group. It was a modest Daytona celebration. My youngest was with us and he thought we were pretty lame. We had some champagne there, I think the Anderson Speedway owner dropped it off for us.”

Surprisingly, with multiple super late model series wins and a championship plus this ARCA win, Van Alst had never opened a champagne bottle before. Fortunately, former ARCA driver and now full-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie Daniel Dye’s father, Randy Dye, was also at the pizzeria. He became the unofficial emcee.

The party did not last long for Van Alst Motorsports though. All members are volunteers, so they had to work on Monday. As a result, some of them left Sunday morning to return home to Indiana.

Van Alst drove the hauler back and he happily saw his two daughters, who stayed home with his in-laws. His two sons, ages 11 and 8, were at the 2.5-mile superspeedway and joined the team in victory lane.

“That meant a lot,” Van Alst said. “That is something you hope and dream that you can do with your kids. When you’re racing at this level, you hope you can give your kids that experience. On my end, I’m hoping to plant the seed that maybe one of them will become the next generation driver in our family. I’m hoping this shows them that we as a family, we can do that. Hopefully, that created memories and the motivation for them to chase the racing dream.”

Among the people in victory lane was veteran crew chief Jim Long.

“It was awesome,” Van Alst adds. “He’s worked with some of the all-time best and to put your name into the category of drivers he has won with … when he first started working with us, I was shell shocked that a guy of his caliber wanted to help some good old boys from Indiana. It’s worked out to be a great relationship and I do feel like he’s the perfect guy for our team because he believes in me, he believes in our guys, and he can be in North Carolina and we can do our thing here in Indiana and it works out.”

See also
ARCA Power Rankings: Greg Van Alst Takes Home 1st Trophy

While it has been less than a week since his memorable victory, the trophy is currently on the mantle right next to his CRA championship trophy, but it might move if he keeps earning more trophies.

Van Alst competed full-time in 2022, finishing fifth in points on the strength of one top five and 11 top 10s.

Impressively, no one works at his race shop full-time due to the lack of sponsorship.

It is a grassroots effort, as some of his team members consist of a police officer, a plumber, a person who works for a company that builds custom trailers, among other professions. Most evenings, it’s Grant, Jason Garrett, who works for Van Alst’s company, and Van Alst who work on the racecars.

Twenty different companies came onboard to sponsor Van Alst at Daytona. At this time, he has not yet reached out to them, but he will. According to Van Alst, a representative from one Daytona sponsor told him, “’You won at Daytona, I’m sure the price for Talladega just went up.’ And I’m like, ‘Hey, you were there before Hollywood so we’re good if you want to come back onboard for that same amount.’”

In his post-race press conference, Van Alst noted his racecar for the next event at Phoenix Raceway is not even ready. The team has some work to do to it as the car has no front suspension, no nose, no engine, no transmission, no seat and no fuel cell. The team will have it ready though. Long has been working on some frontend geometry stuff, so Van Alst is more confident for Phoenix this year than previously.

Chasing the ARCA championship in his second full-time season, the Daytona victory makes the title attainable.

“I think it shows we can put our stuff in victory lane,” Van Alst says. “I know a lot of people think Daytona is an equalizer, but I think those people forget how meticulous your car has to be to go to those places. At Phoenix and the short tracks, your car doesn’t have to be as perfect compared to Daytona and Talladega. It is still ARCA. If you’re not perfect, you’re not going to victory lane.”

Van Alst is the series points leader.

It dawned on him during the victory lane photo session.

“We were in victory lane and during pictures, somebody yelled out, ‘Let’s yell points leader!’” Van Alst recalled. “It’s the first time we’ve led the points in ARCA and it may be the only time we lead it, but we can say we led the points.”

After the Daytona race weekend, Lionel Racing offered the national NASCAR series winners diecasts for preorder. Van Alst was not included, and he noticed.

Van Alst is hopeful there will be some race-winning merchandise available, particularly a Daytona win t-shirt. Nevertheless, with about two weeks until the ARCA Phoenix race, Van Alst has one goal for the present to help him in his quest for the ARCA title.

“Ride the wave.”

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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