Friday, August 11, 2023

TRUCKS: Greg Van Alst becomes only the third driver in NASCAR history to finish last in both his XFINITY and Truck Series debuts

PHOTO: Brett, @22fan4ever

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Greg Van Alst picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s TSport 200 at the Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park when his #20 CB Fabricating Chevrolet was involved in a crash after 14 of 200 laps.

The finish came in Van Alst’s series debut. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 13th for the #20, the 186th from a crash, and the 436th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 59th for the #20, the 1,347th from a crash, and the 1,907th for Chevrolet.

On Wednesday came news that Greg Van Alst would not only drive Young’s Motorsports’ #20 Chevrolet at Indianapolis Raceway Park, pulling double-duty with the ARCA Menards Series race run the same Friday, but would also drive the truck for the remaining Truck Series races in 2023, which happened to coincide with the entire Playoffs. Van Alst’s Truck Series debut would follow his first two XFINITY Series races with Alpha Prime Racing, which each resulted in last-place finishes. After a handling issue from qualifying came back to result in a crash in Atlanta, a brake issue in Loudon resulted in another early trip to the garage area.

Young’s Motorsports was likewise looking for a turnaround. The team’s #20 had entered ten different drivers in the previous 16 races this season, but resulted in seven finishes of 30th or worse. Included were two last-place finishes – the first-lap tire issue suffered by IndyCar’s Ed Jones at COTA, then the Lap 8 accident involving Stefan Parsons in the Bristol Dirt Race. The team also failed to qualify at Pocono with Chad Chastain, who was denied his first chance to race against his brother Ross. But now, after running many of these races with little to no sponsorship, Van Alst would bring his ARCA backer CB Fabricating to decorate the blue-and-yellow Chevrolet.

Friday saw Van Alst finish 7th in Friday’s ARCA race, his #35 Ford the last car on the lead lap, before he prepared for the Truck Series race. His #20 entry was among 39 drivers entered for 36 spots, ranking 34th in practice and then improving in qualifying to secure 27th on the grid with a lap of 105.130mph (23.491 seconds). Missing the show was Josh Reaume, whose #33 JAG Metals Ford lost power steering, yet still came within just 0.027 second of making the race. Joining Reaume on the early ride home were Chad Chastain, this time in Niece Motorsports’ #44 Eat Illeana Watermelon Chevrolet, and Armani Williams in G2G Racing’s #46 CU Autism Network Toyota.

Securing the 36th and final starting spot was Lawless Alan in the #45 AUTOChargit Chevrolet, who incurred a redundant tail-end penalty for unapproved adjustments along with 8th-place Zane Smith in the #38 Boot Barn Ford, 17th-place Matt Mills in the #02 J.F. Electric Chevrolet, and 26th-place Logan Bearden in the #22 Bearden Automotive Ford. Also docked was Tyler Ankrum, who was sent to a backup truck after an accident. By not running a lap in qualifying, Ankrum had already been set to start 35th in the #16 LiUNA! Toyota.

The beginning of the race saw a furious battle for last place. At the end of Lap 1, Lawless Alan had retaken the spot, 5.473 seconds back of the lead with Bearden and Mills locked in a side-by-side battle for 34th. By Lap 3, Alan was now alongside Mills, inching just ahead of the #02 at the stripe by 0.071 second. The next time by, both dispensed with Bret Holmes, whose often unsponsored #32 Chevrolet debuted a new sponsor in Precision Garage Doors. Holmes slipped 0.710 back of Alan on Lap 5, and Alan dropped Tyler Hill’s #56 HairClub Toyota to 35th on Lap 6. Holmes remained in touch with Hill until Lap 9, when he dropped 1.253 seconds back. The gap stabilized until Lap 14, when Holmes was 1.563 seconds back of Hill and 19.71 seconds behind the leader. The first caution flew a moment later.

On Lap 14, Hailie Deegan’s #13 Ford Performance Ford was in a tight battle with Landen Lewis’ #04 CarQuest Chevrolet. According to Deegan, who was running to Lewis’ inside, Lewis crossed her nose entering Turn 3, sending both trucks spinning up the track. While Lewis backed into the outside wall, Deegan tried to pull away just as Van Alst arrived on the scene. Van Alst struck Deegan’s truck, ripping sheet metal off Deegan’s door and damaging the right-front suspension of Van Alst’s truck enough to tuck his wheel against his fender. A moment later, Tyler Ankrum also appeared to clip Lewis’ #04 with the right side of his backup truck. Lewis, Ankrum, and Van Alst all made it to pit road with Van Alst taking last on Lap 15. By Lap 18, Van Alst was three laps down, two laps behind both Ankrum and Lewis as they rejoined the race. Van Alst was still on pit road for the Lap 22 restart and, by Lap 29, was classified “OUT” on FS1’s leaderboard.

On Lap 58, Stewart Friesen pulled behind the wall after his #52 Halmar International Toyota lost a lap to the leaders. He returned to the race in 35th, 14 laps down, then climbed to 30th at the finish. The first truck he passed was Colby Howard, who fell out with suspension issues after 79 laps in his #9 Grant County Mulch Chevrolet. Tyler Ankrum’s backup finished 34th with electrical problems. Taking 33rd was spencer Boyd, whose #12 Freedom Warranty Chevrolet rear-ended a wrecking Dean Thompson, whose #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota backed into the wall entering Turn 3. Both were eliminated with Thompson taking 32nd, completing the Bottom Five.

Layne Riggs once again the breakout star at IRP

On a night that saw Ty Majeski dominate, leading 179 of 200 laps to win the Playoff opener, and Chicago winner Shane Van Gisbergen taking 19th in his Truck Series debut, the night’s biggest surprise was Layne Riggs. On the one-year anniversary of his 7th-place Truck Series debut at the same track, Riggs took the controls of Spire Motorsports’ #7 Infinity Communications Group Chevrolet and charged to a career-best 3rd-place finish. It was Riggs’ first career Top Five in only his sixth series start.

*Greg Van Alst is only the third driver in NASCAR history to score his first career last-place finishes in both his XFINITY and Truck Series debuts. The first was Perry Tripp, who on June 30, 1996 had mechanical issues on the #51 Rosenblum Racing Chevrolet at Nazareth, then on October 25, 1997 crashed the #7 Manheim Auctions Chevrolet after 2 laps around Rockingham. The other was Natalie Decker, who on February 15, 2019 crashed her #54 N29 Technologies Toyota after one lap around Daytona, then on February 20, 2021 crashed her #23 Red Street Records Chevrolet after 3 laps around the Daytona Infield Road Course.
*As the first driver to finish last in both his XFINITY and Truck Series debuts in the same season, Van Alst is already one Cup Series last-place finish away from completing the LASTCAR Triple Crown. No driver has ever completed the Triple Crown in a single season. The closest was Brennan Poole, who finished last in Cup, XFINITY, and Trucks across one year and 22 days, completing it this past May.

36) #20-Greg Van Alst / 14 laps / crash
35) #9-Colby Howard / 79 laps / suspension
34) #16-Tyler Ankrum / 127 laps / electrical
33) #12-Spencer Boyd / 128 laps / running
32) #5-Dean Thompson / 130 laps / crash

1st) Reaume Brothers Racing (4)
2nd) G2G Racing, Young’s Motorsports (3)
3rd) AM Racing, Niece Motorsports, TRICON Garage (2)
4th) CR7 Motorsports, GK Racing, Roper Racing (1)

1st) Chevrolet, Ford (6)
2nd) Toyota (5)


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