Greg Van Alst in action during the ARCA Menards Series pre-race practice at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 14, 2022. (James Gilbert/NASCAR)
A couple years ago, Greg Van Alst was celebrating an ARCA/CRA Super Series title. At that point, he had not competed in the ARCA Menards Series since 2002, but via the Road to Daytona program, he was invited to drive at Daytona International Speedway as part of ARCA’s pre-race practice at the World Center of Racing.
Last weekend, Van Alst ran in the 2022 edition of the pre-race practice at Daytona, and he topped the two-day speed charts.
Van Alst, the 40-year-old from Anderson, Indiana, was the fastest of 64 drivers Friday and Saturday with a top lap time of 48,880 seconds (184,124 mph).
RELATED: Complete pre-race practice results
“Our expectations were to be fast, but we expected to be solid,” Van Alst said, via a team release. “But the truth is that we had more speed than our honest expectations and that has our team feeling really, really good — even a couple of days since the test. …
“It is still hard to believe this is real. I’ve watched so many races and Speedweeks from the couch with the dream of being there. Competing there is hard for me to explain what it means. I must block emotions and focus, but it still gives me chills going through the tunnel. The place is magical.”
Van Alst logged a top five and three top 10s in eight ARCA Menards Series races last season driving his own No. 35 CB Manufacturing Chevrolet. He is finalizing his plans to race in the series again in 2022.
Four more Road to Daytona drivers participated in the pre-race practice this year: Hunter Jack, Luke Fenhaus, Jake Drew and Mason Diaz.
The Road to Daytona initiative began in 2012 to allow drivers the chance to go from local short tracks to stock car racing’s most hallowed ground at Daytona and make laps under preseason practice conditions. Standouts from the ARCA/CRA Super Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour have participated in the program from its inception, and they have been joined by representatives from the ARCA Menards Series East and ARCA Menards Series West since 2020.
The Road to Daytona participants once again ran cars prepared by Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing team. Hillenburg, the 1995 ARCA Menards Series champion and a two-time AMS winner at Daytona, also personally coached each racer.
Jack was the 2021 ARCA/CRA Super Series champion, and Fenhaus was the ARCA Midwest Tour’s rookie of the year last year. Drew and Diaz represented the West and East Series, respectively, after strong runs last season.