RPW Column: With New Car Owner, Gary Vanalstyne, Scott Duell’s Going Home Again In ’23
Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – BENNINGTON, VT – Who says you can’t go home again?
Last year, veteran racer Scott Duell won on opening night for the Sportsman division at Albany-Saratoga Speedway. He was going after the elusive track championship with every fiber of his being.
By the beginning of June, just two months later, Duell was sitting on the sidelines, looking for what was next.
He found it…and what was next had a wing on top. By July, he began dabbling in Sprint Cars, running some in the 305CI division while entering a couple 360CI shows.
However, his heart was always in a Modified style car. Then, the phone rang and on the other end, veteran racer and car owner Gary Vanalstyne.
“I originally planned on just running my sprint car more this year with the Empire Super Sprints and SCONE Series (Sprint Cars Of New England),” Duell said. “Gary got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested in driving for him at Albany Saratoga this year in the Sportsman division.”
This means Duell will return to the track that he’s achieve great success at, in both full-fender cars and open wheel.
According to Duell, Vanalstyne has put a lot of effort into his racing operation over the years. Scott wants to help him get the success that’s warranted for that hard work.
“I just feel like Gary and those guys deserve some good things in racing for what they’ve done,” he said. “As their driver, I’m going to do whatever I can for them.”
This isn’t the first time the offer was extended from Vanalstyne to Duell, though.
“Gary and his brother, Larry, actually asked me to drive their car five years ago,” he said. “I was already committed and don’t like burning bridges so I had to turn it down but have stayed friends ever since. They are some of the nicest guys I’ve met in this sport.”
Was this something he wanted to do, or was Vanalstyne persuasive?
“After walking away last year to try something new, I didn’t expect to be running weekly again,” he said. “I stayed in touch with Gary over the years. We ended up texting back and forth and then met for lunch. After seeing where we were both at, he had offered me the ride and I said sure.”
Duell’s cars will carry sponsorship from Benson’s Pet Center, Saratoga Masonry Supply, Mac-Son Industrial Services, Bisson Excavating, A&A Power Equipment, Spa Cafe, DeWalt Power Tools and Cooks Kitchens. What are the objectives he’s hoping to accomplish in 2023?
“I think I can bring some experience to the team,” he said. I’m hoping that will help us win races and be competitive weekly.”
Duell will be utilizing the team’s 2021 Teo Pro Car for this coming season, carrying Vanalstyne’s familiar #32. Have expectations been set?
“We just want to keep it simple,” he said. “We want to bring a solid car to the track every week and get to victory lane. It will be fun to play the points game but I feel like you get too caught up in that and sometimes lose focus. There is nothing better than a W.”
That’s the name of the game this season for Duell.
“Usually, if you get enough wins the points fall into place,” he said. “You know how that goes. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to dethrone the 22 (Champion Tim Hartman Jr.), but that all starts with that first win so we will do all we can to get those.”
Obviously, the guy standing on the top of the mountain is always the previous year’s champion, but who else does Duell see as the contenders he’ll have to fight this season?
“Albany-Saratoga definitely has all the pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “You have to watch out for the Buff family, Chris Johnson, Dylan Madsen, Travis Witbeck, Michael Coffey Jr. and host of others. To be honest, Albany Saratoga is one of the toughest fields to race with week in week out. Anyone can get the job done. You really have to worry about everyone that starts a feature on a Friday night.”
Was there any hesitation for Duell about going back to the Malta, NY oval on a weekly basis?
“A little, simply because a big reason for the switch last year (to run a Sprint Car), aside from it being my dream, was time,” he said. “I have the best group of guys that help me in the pits. It’s just when the car is home in the shop. It was getting to be a little too much to do myself with a full-time job, two little ones, my wife and our house to take care of. It can be hard when you want to win and be competitive weekly.”
Although the Sprint Car allowed him the time he was craving, there was still something lacking.
“I had fun running the Sprint car a few times and having breaks in between,” he said. “The issue for me, though, was I wanted to be good in it, and win. In order for that to happen, I believe, I need to be in a car weekly, no matter if it’s a Sportsman or Sprinter. It’s hard to jump in the seat every three weeks or so and expect to beat guys that do it weekly.”
Another cool deal for Duell is having a teammate again. This year, he’ll be working with Taylor Laplante, who was a rookie two years ago and moved into the regular Sportsman class last season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to working with Taylor,” he said. “From what I’ve talked to him and his guys, they seem like great people.”
Laplante will be running the team’s other car, a 2022 DKM Cyclone Chassis. Will Duell act as a mentor for his teammate?
“I believe we’ll have two different suspension packages, but if he’s open to advice, I’ll be more than happy to help. It’s fun being on a team. If I can help him be faster and get wins, or he can help me in any way, it’s a plus. If the team wins, we all win. As long as one of the Vanalstyne cars is in victory lane, it’s a good night.”
Does Scott have designs on a full slate of races he’ll be running in 2023 yet?
“Right now, we’re waiting on the Malta schedule to come out,” he said. “Then we may see what other possible races are available that we may want to hit. The plan is to focus on Friday nights with the 32 and run the Sprint Car when a series is local.”
Along with the Vanalstyne brothers, Duell will have a dedicated crew behind him. The team includes Justin Smith, Bill Furgeson, Luke Klob, Seth French, Andy Hickok, John Flannery and his father-in-law, racing veteran Hector Stratton. He’ll also have the support of his wife, Jade, his kids and his entire family.
“They all make me go round,” he said with a laugh.
Whoever said you can’t go home again, never met Scott Duell. He loves Albany-Saratoga Speedway. He loves open wheel racing. He loves the Sportsman division.
Even with all of that, Scott just loves to race, and from the looks of it, he’ll do plenty of that in 2023, and you might just see him again, back in victory lane.