Ken de la Bastide: VanAlst scores breakthrough win at Daytona

Feb. 21—Anderson's Greg VanAlst vaulted to the top of most social media pages dealing with racing with his victory at Daytona.

VanAlst — with sponsorship help from Sam Pierce Chevrolet, Vern's Concrete and CB Fabricating — made the deciding move in the ARCA event Saturday with a last-lap pass.

VanAlst has been a short-track racer for most of his career and was making his third start at Daytona International Speedway.

He was the 2019 Champion Racing Association Super Series champion and got a chance to drive a race car at Daytona during a test session. He left with a desire to race on stock cars' biggest stage.

VanAlst has always shown speed in the ARCA races at Daytona and several other of the speedways the series competes at.

But it always seemed if there was a wreck taking place, the Anderson driver was caught up in it.

He escaped a near miss last weekend at Daytona but found himself in contention as the laps were winding down.

"Guys like me aren't supposed to do this," Van Alst yelled as he climbed out of his car on the front stretch. "This is the only speedway car we got, and there was no way I wasn't going to bring it home without the steering wheel or the trophy.

"This is for all the short-track racers out there that don't think you can get to this level. I worked my ass off to get here, and we did it."

VanAlst won a CRA Super Late Model race at Anderson Speedway in the past.

His victory at Daytona has to be the most notable of any stock car driver from Anderson and Madison County in history.

It turned out to be a good weekend for drivers with short-track experience in Florida.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. captured the Daytona 500 on Sunday, nosing out Joey Logano as the caution flag waved for a multi-car accident in overtime.

For most of the Daytona 500, it was all about drivers matching up to get the "push" to the front of the pack.

Lap after lap the lead draft was running two-wide with drivers in Ford's appearing to have the best chance of winning until the late-race caution resulted in overtime.

Once the final caution flag waved, NASCAR officials used video to determine Stenhouse was the winner over Logano by a matter of inches.

Stenhouse came up through the open-wheel ranks, winning with USAC in the Silver Crown, Midget and sprint car divisions.

Like VanAlst, Stenhouse drives for a stand-alone team with no affiliations with the powerhouse teams.

It was an awesome weekend for veterans of short-track racing and showed "dreams do come true."

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.