Nearly three weeks have passed since the Daytona 200, and Greg Van Alst still cannot believe he found his way to Victory Lane.
A long-time short track veteran who earned a CRA Super Series championship in 2019, Van Alst upon climbing out of his No. 35 Chevrolet famously exclaimed that drivers with limited resources like him are not supposed to win at Daytona International Speedway.
The focus for Van Alst has since shifted to Friday’s General Tire 150 at Phoenix Raceway, but he intends to cherish the Daytona triumph for the rest of his life.
“I don’t know if [winning at Daytona] will ever set in,” Van Alst said. “There were so many years when I dreamed of racing down there, so to actually win still leaves me kind of speechless.”
The aftermath Van Alst experienced from his season-opening victory was comparable to him winning the Daytona 500, albeit on a smaller scale.
Along with receiving congratulatory messages from friends and family, Van Alst was consistently stopped by random strangers in his hometown of Anderson, Indiana, all of whom were eager to hear about how a local resident conquered one of auto racing’s most storied venues.
Despite all the positive publicity, Van Alst heads to Phoenix without any primary sponsorship on his No. 35 except for the website sponsorTeam35.com, which he is using to help promote his small organization with the goal of attracting more support over the 2023 season.
Van Alst has started to see some movement on the sponsorship front following his Daytona win. With a few loyal partners already at his side, Van Alst is confident he can obtain the necessary funding to run all 20 ARCA Menards Series races and keep his title hopes alive.
“We’re still looking for primary sponsorship,” Van Alst said. “CB Fabricating is going to be our primary for multiple races, but we aren’t fully funded. A lot of this comes from out of pocket, but sponsorTeam35.com is allowing people to help us out. I’ve had more people responding with that compared to years past.”
Finding sponsorship is only one of many responsibilities Van Alst must balance as the owner of a small ARCA team. He admitted the finishing touches were not put on the Phoenix car until he got off work Tuesday.
Since Van Alst is also in charge of his own company in Top Choice Fence, he relies extensively on volunteer assistance to help him assemble his cars and ensure he can stay competitive against ARCA juggernauts like Joe Gibbs Racing and Venturini Motorsports.
Without the relentless dedication of his volunteer crew, Van Alst knows he would have never been able to pull off the upset victory at Daytona.
“When people hear that this is an all-volunteer team with a bunch of normal guys, that’s 100 percent true,” Van Alst said. “I don’t want to say they have real jobs and take anything away from people in racing, but they have normal jobs. These crew guys have to be at work Monday morning, and one of them is flying home as soon as the race is over to work Saturday.”
Van Alst and his crew are ready to keep the momentum going from Daytona with their mostly unsponsored car on Friday, when they face the arduous task of maintaining and building upon their points lead.
Although Van Alst would love to add another ARCA win to his resume, he is keeping his own expectations in check for the weekend. He simply hopes to keep his car out of trouble so he can return from the West Coast with a strong performance.
Establishing consistency at the front of the field is the key component Van Alst needs to transform his dream of winning at Daytona into something greater.
“We know what we’re racing against and what we’re capable of,” Van Alst said. “We can’t have any bad races while our competition has good races. That’s what happened to us last year, as we had two bad races to start the season and it put us behind the entire year. If we stay consistent, then we won’t have to crawl ourselves out of a hole.
“I’d say a top five would feel like a win, but I know what it’s like to win now.”