ARA community pays tribute to Al Dantes Jr.

The man who epitomized American grassroots rallying had many, many friends and leaves a large hole in the sport


It’s been over a week now since grassroots rally legend Al Dantes Jr. was killed while he was fueling his pickup-truck at a gas station in his hometown of L’Anse Michigan.

But, in that time, the rally community gradually adapted and coped with the news of his passing, and worked to ensure his legacy will be forever remembered.

A GoFundMe was set up after the rally for Al’s six daughters that managed to raise over $125,000 in under a week. Teams from every corner of the US rally landscape pitched in any way they could. Eventually, even Road & Track ended up reporting on the incident and paying tribute to the beloved grassroots star.

Ahead of the celebration of life this weekend in L’Anse, DirtFish has paid tribute to Dantes’ legacy. We’ve gathered thoughts, memories, and comments from many of the people we talked to at LSPR and made them available here.

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Bill Stokes – Subaru Motorsports USA Media and Marketing Manager

Al Dantes is somebody I knew from the rally world, like so many people did, and knew as this beacon of energy and excitement, especially in the midwestern world of rally where you get regional teams that are their own flavor and you get the same people coming out to the midwestern events, the Michigan events, Ojibwe.

I had a long and really great conversation with Al after Ojibwe last year and talked about his car and talked about all the different iterations that he had gone through with his rally career, and upgrading his RX-7 and getting it to the point that it had been at.

It hit me really hard to hear that he had passed so unexpectedly and so tragically, and I was hoping to see him here. I was hoping to talk to him and shake his hand and hear about what he had done on his RX-7 in the offseason.

He was just a really, really tremendous guy and a very proud Yooper who loved this rally. This was his home rally, he will be missed terribly in this part of the world, this part of the country and in the in the rally community. He will be missed very much.

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“Texas Dave” Carapetyan – BRCC Motorsports Car 725

I don’t know what anybody could possibly say about Al that would do justice to who Al was. All my memories of Al are making lots of inappropriate jokes, talking a lot of s**t at the start of a rally or start of the stages.

You know, we’d see each other in the regroups during rallies and like, it’s just an endless amount of spirit, endless amount of soul. My biggest regret is that he’s got all the selfies of the two of us and I didn’t get a copy of any of them, there’s got to be about 45 terabytes of selfies because the dude had biggest heart there ever was.

Sara Nonack – Co-Driver, ANY% Rally Team

I met Al in 2016 at Magnum Opus, it was our first rally ever. First big rally in a $1200 RX-7, we were running back of the pack. It was nuts, it was insane.

Al is one of the reasons that we kept at this sport; he kept checking on us, he made us feel like we were a part of the rally family as soon as we arrived, and that’s why we’re still here and I have more rally family than I could ever believe because of him.

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Jon Seaton – The Wrecce Crew Media Team

I have clips of him where people are calling him out and saying, ‘oh my god, there goes Al! I can’t believe it’s Al!’ One of my favorite clips of him was last year at Ojibwe. He was down but not out. He’d jellied up his skid plate, rolled it all up, and everybody kind of thought he was out but all of a sudden we hear that familiar V8 rumble coming through the woods.

Al comes flying through, sideways throwing, gravel takes off down this long straight and my favorite part of it is that you hear the course marshall behind us say, ‘I think I hear Al,’ he came around the corner going sideways, he goes, ‘Oh my God it is Al! Go Al!’

That’s one of my favorite clips and I know that he loved it; he actually shared it immediately from us.

Travis Pastrana – Subaru Motorsports USA Car 199

Al was at a rally enthusiast, you know, he loved the sport, and he loved everybody in the sport. There’s not one person that didn’t know Al. Being a father of two daughters and knowing he’s got a plethora of little girls and I just, I don’t even know what to say right now, but I just know rally community will be there for his family as much as much as I know, he would be there for all of us.

To wake up to that news was horrific.


Kevin Schmidt – Midwest Wankel Car 174

Al, it just hit us so hard. We didn’t believe it. He and I were just talking, like, not that long ago. There’s a lot of rear wheel drive in our class for regional O2WD and we were just anticipating that battle for months with him, and Adam [Van Damme], a good friend of him and with him withdrawing, you know, it’s not right.

It’s really weird. You know, you’re out on stage, you can kind of be distracted, but then you go and see all your friends again, and you’re just reminded of it.

Santiago Iglesias – Escudería Boricua Rally Car 305

I didn’t know Al as well as some of the other people, but every time I saw him he’d shake my hand, and give me a big hug.

This rally last year, I left my intercom in my hotel. And so we did one stage with hand signals. And then Al was like, “oh, I got a spare, here you go!”

I forgot to give it back to him, and he was like, “Oh don’t worry about it.” I offered to ship it back he said, “I’ll see you next rally,” and anything like that. He had no problem helping anybody.

Dylan Gondyke – Car 409

I actually didn’t meet Al in person until last year, but it felt like I had known him for years by that point, that’s just the way he made people feel, and he was just such an easy person to talk to and to ask for advice and help, and he was always willing to lend a hand and it was he was just such a tremendous representation of what the best of rally is, and really a giant of the community.

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Alex Gelsomino – Hoonigan Racing Division Car 43

My only regret about Al is that I didn’t get to know him better. You know, we spoke more on messaging that in real life, and I regret that. He was a great guy and even if I didn’t know him super well I can tell he was a one-of-a-kind individual and it will be a massive loss for our sport. So may he rest in peace.

Michelle Miller – Hoonigan Racing Division Car 430

Al was just a great competitor. He was a beautiful advocate for the sport, always had a smile on his face, was always having a good time. We’re really going to miss having him out here. And we’ll do what we can to help his family get through this time

Ryan George – Bearded Rhino Rally Team Car 828

Al, man, there’s so much you can say about Al. He was the first guy that really got us into rally, he took us under his wing. He was like our rally mentor, big brother, just such an awesome guy.

He’s the guy that I looked forward to seeing every rally and battling with every rally and just laughing and shaking hands and drinking beers and camping. He was such a good dude, he was humble, just an amazing person all around and he’s going to be missed.


Rhiannon Gelsomino – Subaru Motorsports USA Car 199

Unfortunately last night we lost a very important person of our rally community. Al was a great guy. I was actually just speaking to him [the day before], so it’s really sad to hear the news and I’m thinking of his friends and family. And the rally family is here for those people that need it.

Ivo Draganov – Dragon Racing Car 150

I think the loss of Al’s life is a huge blow to the rally community. I mean, I’ve known him for so many years now, we’ve raced together. He was the brightest and most easy to talk to person, and he’s going to be missed.

It just got us by complete shock yesterday when we found out and we’re still in the disbelief. So my condolences to the family and to the friends of the family and just so sad to see him go in that way. Al will be definitely missed.

Michael Hooper – River City Rally Car 423

I mean, you can’t really think of anybody that was more grassroots, got more people in rally cars. Was always willing to help, that just embodied everything that’s good about, grassroots, motorsports, and having a daughter myself, it just sucks. I’m so sorry for his family and their loss.

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Brandon Semenuk – Subaru Motorsports USA Car 180

Yeah, I mean I didn’t know Al well unfortunately, but my heart goes out to his friends and family and it’s absolutely tragic, and just really not the way we wanted to be here at the rally and have something like that happen.

But I know he’s probably loves that we’re all here and we’re racing and we’re thinking of them. My heart goes out to all his people

Pat Moro – Pat Moro Racing Car 59

You know, Al was my V8 buddy. I was just talking about him the night that he passed. I saw him earlier that day in the hotel. So, man, it’s just unbelievable, somebody, so full of life, so spirited.

I just really feel for his daughters, you know, it’s a terrible, terrible thing, that happens there. And, you know, you just can’t say how much you just can’t say, how unfair it is.


If you would like to support Dantes’ family, their gofundme has closed, but there is still information on how to give to them directly in the updates section. Rally.Build is also selling stickers with 100% of proceeds being donated to the fund.

From all of us at DirtFish, thank you Al for all that you have done for our sport. Yours is a memory that will not be forgotten.

Words:Mason Runkel