After winning the 2023 ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway and leading the points for the first two races, Greg Van Alst is now evaluating whether he’ll continue running full time, he tells Frontstretch.
Van Alst’s Daytona race-winning car ended up wrecked at Talladega Superspeedway while his race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Friday (May 26) ended with a 22nd-place DNF.
The 41-year-old independent, who runs his own race team, lacks significant sponsorship to run full time. His team is all volunteers, individuals who have regular day jobs outside of motorsports.
“We’ve got a couple of races already planned,” Van Alst says. “We’ve got a pretty good partnership with CB Fabricating so we’ll have some discussions about what we want to do. Really, we’ve just dropped so far in the points, we’re making our NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in July so there’s lots to think about family-wise. Getting junked a couple of races into the season never helps the budget.
“As I’ve always said, ‘I think I can run full time if we don’t tear up stuff.’ And getting wrecked, that’s when it starts getting tough. If you got to replace it or fix it, it just takes it off the budget to do that.”
Some of Van Alst’s frustrations stem from his Charlotte wreck involving Connor Mosack. After a caution in Friday’s event, Van Alst was one of six lead lap drivers who chose not to pit before the lap 50 competition caution. Mosack’s No. 18 team, meanwhile, chose to pit him for four fresh tires.
On the subsequent restart, Mosack, among others, charged toward the front of the field. Van Alst got loose, the two made contact, and his race quickly ended abruptly via “the hardest hit I’ve ever taken in an ARCA car.”
Afterward, the pair spoke at the track.
“What I told Connor was, ‘Cut me a break, I don’t have a full crew of [Joe Gibbs Racing] guys that can fix this,'” he says. “‘This gets fixed in my own backyard.’ I have to get up every morning, go to work and then work on this stuff so all of that combined is what makes it tough. I’ve read on social media everyone saying, ‘Oh, you were loose.’ And I get it but Gus Dean drove by me on the top, I got free a little bit and then Connor got into me. He would’ve gotten into me anyway. What happened already happened so our stuff is still sitting here junked.”
After being successfully checked and released from the infield care center, Van Alst didn’t mince words with his thoughts about the crash.
“We just talked,” Van Alst says. “He didn’t do anything intentionally. I know he was on new tires and we were on old tires. I kind of felt like it was exactly what he said. Maybe next time, cut me a break. I left him room to go anywhere else he could’ve gone and he just drove into the back of us. There was room on other parts of the racetrack that he could’ve went to.”
Although Van Alst was initially uncertain whether he would compete in the next ARCA race at Berlin Raceway, he now is confident he’ll be there. Beyond that, though, his 2023 ARCA schedule is up in the air.
“Our short track car is together,” he says. “It’s just stuff that is keeping me from going race to race. We’ll go to Berlin but we’ve got to start evaluating. If we have to start eliminating races, we will.
“I’d start cutting short tracks out and convert our short track car over to run [big tracks]. Our short track car is the one that we ran two years ago at Michigan [International Speedway] and we finished sixth. If we’re not going to run full time, there isn’t any sense to go run some of the short tracks.”
Van Alst’s Talladega racecar needs a new front clip. As for the Charlotte one, Van Alst was unsure about its amount of damage as he and his team have not unloaded the car to further inspect it.
“We were hoping we could come out of Charlotte with minimal damage so we could use our short track car and that car could be our backup,” he adds. “I drove it at the Milwaukee Mile last year, so we could’ve run it at a short track if we had to. Now, we’re just going to be so far behind. I don’t know if there are enough hours in the day to work and make a full-time run.”
Unofficially, Van Alst has fallen to seventh in the standings, 44 points behind leader Jesse Love. Participating at an ARCA event without the ability to contend isn’t an option for him.
“The last thing I want to do is go out and compete and be only able to give 85-90%; there’s no reason to go to the racetrack if we cannot give 100%,” he says. “Lots to evaluate over the next week or two.”
In addition to his recent on-track woes, Van Alst has suffered in his personal life as his father Bruce Van Alst recently passed away and his brother Matt Van Alst was injured in a bad accident within the past week.
“Sometimes, you want to take a deep breath and reset,” he says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I guess that’s a difference, between our race team and a lot of the other race teams, is that’s how they make their living. We don’t make money when we go to the racetrack.”
In 2022, Van Alst ran full time en route to a fifth-place finish in the ARCA drivers’ standings and seventh in the owners’ standings. Yet the showing ended up being a losing outcome financially.
“You know the old saying is, ‘To make a million dollars in racing is to start with $2 million.’” Van Alst says. “That’s the truth of it. Teams can make money because they’ll take money from any hack who will write them a fucking check. That’s how they make money. I don’t.
“We won the biggest race of the year and it cost us more than what we won to run Daytona. It still costs the same to run a late model as it does my ARCA car. That’s still true. I had more money in my super late model than I did in my Daytona car. We don’t have a driver writing us a big check to come sit in our seat. I couldn’t even get Mobil 1 to give us free oil in exchange for a decal.”
In the summer months of June-August, ARCA races 10 times, half of its season in a three-month span. Whether Van Alst’s No. 35 will be there at all remains to be determined after his string of bad luck.
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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