ARCA Menards Series team owner and the defending Daytona ARCA 200 champion driver Greg Van Alst treks to the “World Center of Racing” for this weekend’s preseason testing session armed for another year of competition.
With his primary goal set to defend his Daytona International Speedway race title, Van Alst is utilizing the highly anticipated two-day as an opportunity to showcase the planned expansion of his Anderson, Ind. team’s footprint by debuting a second car.
Midwest racing standout and fellow Martinsville, Ind. native Isaac Johnson has been tapped to drive the No. 34 Ford Mustang as a teammate to Van Alst’s No. 35 Chevrolet SS this weekend.
Van Alst is utilizing the test as a perfect opportunity for his team to test the waters about fielding a second entry throughout the 2024 ARCA Menards Series season.
“I’m glad to be heading back to Daytona this weekend,” said Van Alst, who has completely recovered from a broken back suffered in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last September.
“There were a lot of options on the table as far as what I could do to kick off the season, but I am all about giving back and creating a platform where the next wave of racers can come to Greg Van Alst Motorsports and be confident about what they will be driving and knowing that they are going to have the same opportunity to contend for wins – just as if I was driving the race car.
“We are so excited to have Isaac testing with us this weekend. He did a great job in his ARCA Menards Series debut at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in August, and I believe he can benefit our team to continue to build our notebook while providing the feedback that can make our decision easy if we decide to come back to Daytona next month and race two cars.
“Good things are happening, and I’m excited about what is ahead.”
For the 23-year-old Johnson, who boasts experience in various racing disciplines, including Go-Karts, Kenyon Midgets, Dirt Late Models and Pavement Late Models – the opportunity to test at Daytona is a dream come true.
“I’m beyond excited for the test this weekend,” said Johnson, who also competed in the Carolina Pro Late Model Series in 2023. “I’ve been to Daytona a couple of times as a spectator, and just the feeling that you get whenever you go underneath that tunnel is unbelievable.
“I just can’t wait to hit the high banks for the first time and experience what that feels like. I’m incredibly focused on learning. Going out there and soaking up as much knowledge as I can.”
Johnson finished 12th in his ARCA Menards Series debut in Indianapolis last summer, exceeding his expectations. However, he is focused on building his racing resume by competing at the largest track of his career, armed with a preseason run that will feature more than 70 drivers from across the world.
“The key for me is having a great learning experience this weekend,” added Johnson. “I’ve never been to a track like this before. Getting comfortable is super important for me. I just want to have a firm understanding of what will happen and what will happen, and I don’t think I could have a better teacher.
“We are still working on opportunities for the race, so a good showing and pairing with Greg certainly helps that cause.”
Van Alst’s No. 35 Chevrolet SS has been repaired following a vicious crash at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last April. Van Alst believes that his car will still perform just as well, if not better, than it has over the past couple of years.
“The offseason went fast,” added Van Alst. “We were busy putting back our Daytona car, but I am confident in its ability. I know it will still showcase the speed it has shown during the preseason test and the superspeedway races.
“Once we shake out the bugs, we’ll quickly work to make sure Isaac is up to speed and comfortable so we can go out there and draft together. I believe we will learn a lot that will benefit the race in five weeks.”
For Johnson, the Daytona test is more than about turning circles at one of the most legendary race tracks ever; it is the chance to work alongside a fellow Hoosier.
“It means a lot to be paired with Greg,” he said. “I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, especially with what he was able to accomplish last year with the win at Daytona. Being a fellow Indiana native, it’s really cool being able to go to the shop every week, hang around the guys, and just sponge as much as I can, leading into the test.
“I hope we can continue growing our relationship into several ARCA starts this year.”
For more on Greg Van Alst and Greg Van Alst Motorsports, please visit GregVanAlst.com, like them on Facebook (Van Alst Motorsports) and follow him on X | Twitter (@GregVanAlst35).
For more on Isaac Johnson, please like him on Facebook (Isaac Johnson Racing), or follow him on Instagram (@isaacjohnsonracing), TikTok (@isaacjohnsonracing) and X | Twitter (@isaac72johnson).
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