Tuesday, June 29, 2021

ARCA: Practice crash leaves Greg Van Alst off Pocono grid

PHOTO: @ZachStur

by William Soquet
LASTCAR.info Staff Writer

Greg Van Alst finished last for the 1st time in his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #35 CB Fabricating Chevrolet did not start the race.

The finish came in Van Alst’s seventh series start.

After a trio of ARCA starts in 2002 at age 21, Van Alst shifted to late models and experienced a wealth of success, including a championship in the ARCA/CRA Super Series in 2019. In December 2020, Van Alst announced a partial ARCA schedule for his own team, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, headlined by superspeedway efforts run with a chassis that was formerly run by Chad Bryant Racing. While the biggest tracks of the series were not kind to him in 2021, tallying a pair of DNFs at Daytona and Talladega, the 35 car scored a top-ten finish at Kansas, indicative of where the team can run when all the pieces fall in to place.

Kris Wright scored the first last-place finish of his ARCA Menards Series career in Friday’s General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at Pocono Raceway when his #30 Master Tech Ford retired with rear gear problems after completing 13 of the event’s 80 laps.

The finish came in Wright’s eighth series start.

A sports car and open-wheel racer by trade, Wright has made quite the splash in the stock car world over the past eighteen months. He finished second in the LMP2 class in the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona, and emerged on the NASCAR scene around this time last year, running the ARCA West doubleheader at Utah Motorsports Campus for Pitts Racing, turning in two podium finishes. The performances spurred a renewed interest in stock car racing, leading to a couple of CARS Super Late Model Tour starts in the back half of 2020 as well as a handful of ARCA appearances for GMS Racing and Chad Bryant Racing and a start at the Daytona Road Course in the Truck Series for GMS. In advance of 2021, Wright signed on with Young’s Motorsports announcing a full Truck schedule; as of this writing, Wright has competed in eight of thirteen possible events for the team.

Wright also signed on with Sam Hunt Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for a handful of events, one of them being Mid-Ohio. Wright also ran the ARCA companion race with Rette Jones Racing that weekend, although an early spin derailed his effort. Driver and team paired again for Pocono, with the team noting it as a “redemption race”. Alas, it was not to be.

Van Alst was joined by twenty-four other cars on the entry list. Ryan Huff’s family team made its second race and Jett Noland’s family team, Hype Motorsports, made its first attempt. Sam Mayer jumped in Bret Holmes’ ride for the weekend, and Venturini Motorsports brought back old favorite Chandler Smith to fill the 25 car for the race. Andy Jankowiak showed up thanks to new backing from Phillips 66, and Kris Wright continued his part-time run with Rette Jones Racing. Sean Corr made his usual Pocono appearance with Empire Racing, and Jade Buford ran another race with Fast Track Racing to gain seat time for his Xfinity Series schedule. Traditional Pocono drivers Bryan Dauzat and Don Thompson were on the entry list with Brother-in-Law Racing and Wayne Peterson Racing, respectively, and Fast Track Racing filled its entries with Ed Pompa, Stephanie Moyer, and Pocono Raceway track president Nick Igdalsky.

Ty Gibbs led the lone practice session with a lap of just over 52.5 seconds, with Thompson and Brad Smith the only drivers that failed to crack the one-minute mark for a lap. Van Alst suffered significant damage to the rear of the car without posting a time and his crew called it a day with no backup car and a short turnaround to race time. Qualifying was much the same story – Gibbs led with a lap of 52.3 seconds, and this time, four drivers found themselves over the minute mark: Smith, Thompson, Igdalsky and Moyer. Wright’s team did not make a lap but still made the field, as the number of entries was not enough to fill a field.

When the race began, ARCA timing and scoring still listed Van Alst as last, raising questions as to whether the 35 car would be scored as a “did not start” and be the last-place finisher. Initially, the #35 was not listed on the post-race results, but was alter added to the results as a DNS in 25th with three points earned due to participating in some of the weekend’s events.

That left Don Thompson as the last car on the grid, as Wright was credited with the 24th starting position but actually started the race ahead of Thompson and Brad Smith. At the conclusion of the opening lap, Thompson was 3.7 seconds back of Smith, and after three laps, was 34 seconds in arrears to leader Ty Gibbs. Thompson became the first car a lap down on the track on lap six, right before the first caution flew for a spin involving Nick Igdalsky.

After an extended stay on pit road to fix damage from the incident, Igdalsky briefly dropped to 24th, also one lap down, but promptly passed Thompson on the restart to regain 23rd place. Thompson remained the last-place driver that started the race until Wright went to the pit road on lap 13. While initial reports indicated that the Rette Jones Racing machine may have had a flat tire, it was soon evident that problems were much more than that. The 30 car soon went to the garage and dropped to last on lap 15.

About that time, radio chatter indicated that there was at least one large piece of debris on the track, and several drivers and spotters were lobbying the sanctioning body to call a caution. Alas, none of the calls were heeded, and the caution came out instead for Scott Melton, who was trailing copious amounts of smoke from his machine. Sam Mayer had also been on a freefall right before the caution, and the MRN broadcast noted that the #32 car had been bottoming out more than usual.

Melton retired his car to the garage under caution, but the Bret Holmes Racing team attempted to repair Mayer’s car on pit road. It soon became apparent that there was an extra part lodged in the bottom of Mayer’s car – the pinion off of a different car, presumably Wright’s. After failing to dislodge the pinion from under the front bumper of Mayer’s car, the team sent him out so as to not lose a lap, but the engine expired not even a lap after he left the pits. 

All parties involved were understandably upset about the situation.

“You… spend a lot of money to come out here and race, and the officials don’t want to listen to the people that put on the show and come here and keep this series alive,” Holmes told Frontstretch. “It’ll probably cause us to not be able to go to the next race we wanted to, and that’s their [ARCA’s] fault. Just stupidity from the series. They do it so often. I mean, it’s not a secret.”

Last year’s ARCA East champion Mayer also shellacked the series for the inaction. “Just disappointed ARCA won’t listen to anybody up on the spotter stand. There’s about 15 spotters up there complaining that there was debris on the track and still nothing, and it took seven laps and probably three destroyed racecars and engines to make it happen,” he was quoted as saying in the same Frontstretch article.

Scott Melton was not silent on the issue either, being the third person to talk to Frontstretch about the matter. “When you’re running 180 mph, I think it’s incumbent on them [ARCA] to be on the safe side. And this was ridiculous. I mean, it’s not just the damage of the car. The yoke that took off the No. 23 could have hit Sam in the face. There’s so many bad things that can happen.”

The Bottom Five was filled by Igdalsky, eliminated in a Lap 27 tangle with Bryan Dauzat.

25) #35-Greg Van Alst / 0 laps / did not start
24) #30-Kris Wright / 13 laps / rear gear
23) #69-Scott Melton / 17 laps / crash
22) #32-Sam Mayer / 19 laps / radiator
21) #12-Nick Igdalsky / 26 laps / crash

1st) Chevrolet (5)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

1st) Fast Track Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
2nd) Brad Smith Motorsports, Greg Van Alst Motorsports, Rette Jones Racing, Kimmel Racing (1)


1 comment:

Carlisle flash said...

Just so you know the Thompson car was so slow in the race because the engine was missing badly after the first laps of practice and could never be fixed and was a problem in the race.