Defending CRA Champion Riding High into Winchester
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Coming off a strong run at the Pinty’s U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway, Greg Van Alst will go from one high-banked mile to another, as the ARCA/CRA Super Series ends their season next weekend at the Winchester 400.
Last year’s race was the site of one of the biggest championship upsets in recent memory, when Van Alst beat Josh Brock to the line by mere car lengths to win the series championship.
That championship still means everything to him, nearly one year later.
“It’s got my heart pumping now. Last year, we were definitely considered the underdogs going in and my confidence as a driver probably wasn’t as high as it should’ve been going into that race. I still can’t even hardly put it into words what it means to me and my team and the whole CB Fabricating race team.
“It’s one of those things that since I grew up in the area CRA got started in, it’s been a dream to run really well with CRA. To be a CRA champion, I still almost can’t believe it.”
Van Alst is admittedly not a fan of Winchester Speedway, stemming from an accident that required neck surgery. With a championship on the line a week from Sunday, he hopes to see his relationship with the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” come full circle.
“If I won the Winchester 400, I don’t know what’s going to come out of my mouth when I get interviewed. I was telling people this weekend Winchester’s scary, Bristol’s fun. As I’ve said before, I’ve got a titanium plate in my neck from hitting the wall at Winchester, so there’s a love-hate relationship there and I’m not afraid to tell anybody I hate the place, but I respect it to its fullest.
“I think the Redbud 400 would be more of a race that I would like to win, but to win the Winchester 400 would be like conquering the monster that bit you.”
Van Alst’s improvement from last season took a new turn over the weekend on one of the biggest stages in all of short track racing. After qualifying third, the Anderson, Indiana driver led multiple laps and scored a career-best second place in the Pinty’sU.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Van Alst lost the lead to Trevor Noles with just 12 laps to go, who then pulled away for the biggest win of his career. After the excitement of his best run to date in a Super Late Model wore off, he spent Sunday going back through the previous night’s events asking himself “what if?”
“Saturday night after it was over, I was excited. Sunday on the ride home, I was constantly playing everything over, what could I have done different,” Van Alst told Speed51’s “The Bullring.” “We watched the replay of the race and I don’t know if there was a whole lot I could’ve done different at the end of the race.
“I think maybe at the midpoint of the race I wouldn’t have went as hard and conserved a little bit of tire. Once I beat Trevor (Noles) on one of the restarts I drove a little too hard and I used up my right front. That’s about the only thing I would’ve done different, other than that I did about all what I could.”
It was the latest installment in what’s been a year that has seen his team pick up vast amounts of speed from his championship season one year ago. He has qualified in the top-10 in four races in 2020, more than in all his previous years combined.
His runner-up effort Saturday night broke his previous best finish of fifth, which came at Baer Field Motorsports Park one year ago. Van Alst says that the newly-found speed came from the shop.
“Kevin Shannon, my crew chief and myself, we’ve been working really close with Butch VanDoorn and we’ve found a few things we were doing wrong in the shop. We’ve focused on those things we’ve been doing wrong and it’s just been amazing how much better the cars are driving and the comparison between how they have drove this year versus how they drove last year. When you set it up at the shop right, it allows your weekend to go much smoother.
“From a driver’s perspective, I’ve done a few things different. When the car comes off the trailer fast, it’s so much easier as a driver to drive a race car. What we’ve found is so silly, we just have a small barn behind the house that we do our shop work in and it all goes back to making sure our floor was level.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3 -Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo