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DI 30 Under 30 2023: Chase Van Sant

His kind and gentle off-track demeanor was a bit misleading, because when Chase Van Sant showed up for his first NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle race at the season opener in Gainesville, the gloves were off. Van Sant, who started in the Jr. Drag Racing League when he was nine, raced to the semifinals in his debut and continued a hard charge while learning every step of the way. 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]

By season’s end, the 2023 NHRA Rookie of the Year had reached the semifinals on four separate occasions aboard his Trick-Tools White Alligator Racing Suzuki, and although a battle wound claimed on-track in Dallas sidelined him for the remainder of the season, Van Sant had a successful start that should be the foundation for a prosperous future in the class. 

“Drag racing was always something I wanted to do,” says Van Sant, whose father, Bruce, was racing Pro Mod Motorcycle when he was born. “At like three months old, I went to Indianapolis Raceway Park, and the bug was implanted there.” 

Initially renting a Jr. Dragster at Eddyville Raceway Park, Van Sant’s family purchased one when the time was right and raced locally and in the Western Conference Finals. But four wheels wasn’t what stoked the young man’s fire. 

“Motorcycles were what I always wanted to do, because that was what my dad was doing,” explains Van Sant. “I started out on street bikes going pretty slow, really, then transitioned into 4.60 index class and had some good success there. It was a good way for us to revive my dad’s old motorcycle – it fit really well in that class. Then we met the White Alligator Racing guys at PRI and figured out how we could do this.” 

Van Sant began working with team owner and former world champion Jerry Savoie and longtime winning rider Karen Stoffer in 2022 and gained experience as well as his Pro Stock Motorcycle license. When the seat opened up this season, he was ready, willing, and able to jump in. 

“It’s been an awesome experience for me,” says Van Sant. “This is something I’ve dreamed about and wanted for as long as I can remember. You go through all the steps one at a time, license, preseason testing, and it starts to become more and more real. The bike is wrapped with all of your logos and sponsors, then you show up in Gainesville and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is it, this is really happening.’ I still have that feeling at every new track I’ve gone to. It’s a little intense, but I have loved every bit of it.” 

Van Sant’s four trips to the semifinals left him wanting more, and he sees final rounds and striving for championships in his future. He does not look away from the fact that there were lulls during the season, and in fact, he appreciates that there was simply time needed to get the whole program flowing. 

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“We’ve done well, and I was a little surprised,” he says. “There was never a doubt about the motorcycle and the team, so I knew how I did was going to depend on me. I put that pressure on myself, and eventually, it got to the point to where I was riding consistently enough and my lights were consistent enough that we could be competitive so that they could tune the bike. That’s what makes Pro Stock Motorcycle one of the most interesting classes; the rider is such a huge part of the package going down the track. How I move impacts the decisions Tim [Kulungian, crew chief] makes up in the office. We’re constantly working to strengthen the working relationship we all have together and get the product that we want on the racetrack.

“Hopefully, there will be more of this in the future, because I absolutely love it. Hopefully, we’ll start the season even stronger, not have any lulls, and keep inching our way towards a championship.”

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