From Brandon White / arcaracing.com
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Greg Van Alst is a name that has long been associated with short track racing.
His resume includes a championship in the CRA Super Series in 2019. That accomplishment enabled Van Alst to participate in the Road to Daytona program before starting his ARCA Menards Series team two years later with the goal of representing short track veterans on a larger stage.
That dream was fulfilled for Van Alst during Saturday’s Daytona 200, who parked his No. 35 Verns Concrete/CB Fabricating/Sam Pierce Chevrolet in Victory Lane after passing Jason White on the last lap.
“Guys like me aren’t supposed to do this,” Van Alst yelled as he climbed out of his car on the front stretch. “This is the only speedway car we’ve got and there was no way I wasn’t going to bring it home without the steering wheel or the trophy.
“This is for all the short track racers out there that don’t think you can get to this level,” Van Alst said. “I worked my ass off to get here and we did it!”
Van Alst got his Daytona trophy through a combination of luck and patience.
After surviving contact from Andy Jankowiak with 21 laps remaining, Van Alst maintained his track position and found himself tucked behind White during the final laps, where he waited for the right moment to make his move for the win.
Not wanting to push White to the checkered flag, Van Alst dragged the brake to get a push from Connor Mosack heading into Turn 3 on the final lap. Mosack’s assistance propelled Van Alst past White, where he held off the rest of the pack for the most prestigious victory of his career.
“I knew if I pushed [White], I was either going to wreck him or keep the train going,” Van Alst said. “[Mosack] told me earlier in the race we were best friends and I kind of hoped he would go with me down the backstretch because that was his best option. I got to [White’s] right-rear corner panel, Connor gave me a shot coming off [Turn] 4 and that was it.”
While Van Alst’s victory came as a surprise to many, the seasoned competitor was determined to make his third trip to Daytona a successful one.
A strong showing in the pre-race practice in January served as validation for Van Alst that his small operation was going to be in the mix with big-budget teams like Venturini Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Rev Racing.
Van Alst was so confident heading into the weekend that he managed to convince his wife to make the trip out to Daytona, where she watched her husband add his name to the track’s storied history.
“This is the first time [my wife] has been in the garage in 17 years,” Van Alst said. “Since we’ve been married, she has not been able to come because of the kids, but I told her back in December she had to come because I was winning Daytona. I was so nervous that I hardly ate anything this morning, but I had a feeling.”
Even with all the confidence on his side, it was still a struggle for Van Alst to get the resources he needed just to be a factor in Saturday’s finish.
Van Alst was unable to secure manufacturer support during the offseason and saw a handful of potential sponsorships fall through at the last minute, yet he persevered through the disappointment knowing his lone speedway car was capable of winning.
Two people Van Alst credited for making Saturday a reality were Chad Bryant, whom Van Alst purchased his race winning car from, and crew chief Jim Long, who won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Ricky Rudd in 1999.
All of the guidance provided by Bryant and Long was crucial in giving Van Alst the determination to show the motorsports industry a short track veteran like him could indeed win on stock car racing’s biggest stage and hopes his triumph is the first of many to come in ARCA.
“I love ARCA because everybody in there understands our story,” Van Alst said. “I try to drive with a lot of respect and I feel like a lot of the drivers have [that old school mentality]. I’m a realist, so I understand what it takes to make it in racing and ARCA is a perfect fit for guys like me.”
Van Alst admitted he will have to hustle to get his car for Phoenix Raceway ready, but he plans to cherish his Daytona victory for now before even considering how to keep the momentum going for a potential championship run.
Mosack followed Van Alst in the running order with Sean Corr, Lavar Scott and Mandy Chick completing the top-five. Amber Balcaen, Jesse Love, Jack Wood, White and Dale Quarterley were the rest of the top-10 finishers.
The ARCA Menards Series gets two weeks off before heading west to Phoenix Raceway for the General Tire 150 on March 10, which will be broadcast live on FS2.
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Photo's: arcaracing.com / Dayton Barr / Greg Van Alst
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