At 42, Greg Van Alst experienced a severe setback last October during the NASCAR Truck race at Talladega Superspeedway, Alabama, where he sustained a fractured vertebra in a brutal crash. This incident abruptly halted a season that marked a significant breakthrough for the experienced short track racer.
Van Alst’s 2023 season had begun spectacularly with a dramatic victory in the ARCA Menards Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Achieving his first career win in 32 starts with a last-lap pass, it was a milestone for him.
Later in the year, Van Alst expanded his racing portfolio with initial appearances in NASCAR’s Xfinity and Truck series, driving for Young’s Motorsports. However, the Talladega accident curtailed his season.
Despite the setback, Van Alst was determined to return to racing. Conversations with his wife, Christi, reinforced his resolve. He recalls, “By Sunday evening after the wreck, I was ready to start the path back.”
Following a recovery period exceeding 12 weeks, medical clearance allowed Van Alst to resume racing. His comeback journey begins with this weekend’s preseason ARCA test at Daytona, where he aims to replicate his previous victory in the season opener.
Van Alst plans to compete full-time in ARCA this season and introduces Isaac Johnson, a 23-year-old Midwest racing talent, as his new teammate. While open to opportunities in Xfinity or Trucks, his primary focus remains on ARCA, aiming to accumulate more wins and expand his Greg Van Alst Motorsports venture.
Van Alst explains, “We’re trying to build a program that pays for itself. We pay for this all out of pocket.” He differentiates his approach from other teams, emphasizing the challenge of managing the organization while working on other commitments.
The return to Daytona brings a mix of excitement and apprehension for Van Alst. Winning brings expectations, and he admits to feeling nervous, a sentiment he hasn’t experienced before in racing. “It’s crazy coming back here knowing we won here,” Van Alst reflects, acknowledging the pressure to prove that his previous victory was more than just luck.