Fresh off an ARCA/CRA Super Series championship at the Winchester 400 last October, Greg Van Alst will venture south to Crisp Motorsports Park to make his CRA SpeedFest debut next weekend. It will be a rare appearance outside the Midwest for the Anderson, Indiana driver, who also competed in the All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway last November.
With another three months until the ARCA/CRA Super Series season opener at Anderson Speedway, Van Alst is looking to break up the winter by climbing into his No. 35 Super Late Model. He sees it as an opportunity to keep hold of the magic his team found at the end of last season, helping him to a seventh-place finish in the Winchester 400 and a championship.
“I’m pretty excited, it’ll be a change of the norm to be at a race track in January. Seeing where I was as a driver towards the end of the year and knowing that if you take a break through the winter, you might lose some of that,” Van Alst told Speed51.com. “It’s a CRA-sanctioned race right in the middle of winter. We’re really doing it to keep my skills sharp and it’s not a race like the Snowball Derby so it’s not going to be as expensive to go to. It’s a good race to go to, to keep the rust from growing too thick.”
While 2018 series champion Josh Brock and two-time JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion Jack Dossey III were the talk of the town as the perennial favorites going into the championship weekend, Van Alst proved the doubters wrong by running the race of his life and winning the championship by the closest margin since the ‘Chase’ format was introduced in 2017. The title allowed him the opportunity to go down to Daytona International Speedway this past weekend for the ARCA Menards Series test with Andy Hillenburg.
Having also won the CRA Late Model Sportsman crown in 2014, Van Alst says winning the ARCA/CRA Super Series champion has been bigger than he ever imagined.
“Yeah, it’s definitely sunk in. It’s changed a lot of stuff,” he said. “We just got back from doing the ARCA test at Daytona; it’s definitely been an experience and definitely has made things different. It was better to win the Super Series championship than it was to win the Sportsman championship. When I won the Sportsman championship I was just the guy that won a championship, and now that I’ve won the Super Series championship it’s gotten me more notoriety. When I met people down at the Daytona test, Ron Drager would introduce me as the Super Series champion. It’s definitely been a nice ride.”
Winning the championship has helped him realize just what he and the team are capable of.
“As the driver of a low-budget race team, you always second-guess yourself and you always kind of think, is it me that’s the reason why we’re not running as good or is it our equipment. For me personally, it’s definitely boosted my confidence,” he said. “At the end of the Winchester 400 I found a race car driver that I didn’t even know was in me. That’s what I’m kind of riding on, that I know now what I’m capable of, and that just boosts my confidence more than I’ve ever had in the past.”
With an extra shot of confidence heading into the 2020 season, Van Alst is looking forward to his first SpeedFest attempt. While acknowledging every racer’s goal going into a race, a solid run in his first showing in the Peach State would satisfy he and his team.
“I’d like to have a top ten with the crowd of guys that’s going there. Every racer’s goal is to go down and win the race but knowing the competition that’s going down there and that’s got multiple laps there, we’ve never been there, I think the main goal’s going to be a top ten,” he stated. “A top five would make the whole team ecstatic, and to pull a first-time win at a track I’ve never seen would be even crazier. Just with the stout field that’s going to be there, a top ten’s what we’re looking for.”
Race fans unable to make the trip to Cordele, Georgia for SpeedFest will still be able to witness the action, as Speed51 will stream the event for the sixth straight year. More information about the live broadcast for the event will be announced soon.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51Photos.com