Fort Frances, Ontario native Steve Arpin told the Fort Frances Times that he had big things planned for 2011, yet can’t talk about them yet.
“I’ve got incredible plans of what I want to do,” Arpin said. “I’m just trying to talk all these team owners into going along with my plan.
“As hard as it is to keep my mouth shut, I have to at this point.”
In his plans, he looks to race full-time in NASCAR, either in the Nationwide Series or the Camping World Truck Series.
Most would say this is the off-season for racing that Arpin has entered, however his appointment book would say otherwise.
“We’re just really working hard,” he remarked. “It may be the off-season, but it’s the absolute most stressful time of the year putting these deals together.”
Whichever plan works out for Arpin, it’ll be another year of learning.
If he goes down the Camping World Truck Series route, he’s never raced a truck before.
If he goes down the Nationwide Series route, several tracks will be new and the new car set to be permanently implemented into the series.
"It was a lot different than the cars we're used to running,” Arpin told me of driving the car at Daytona. “But they were fun. At times they were a handful, and you really had to be up on the wheel and focused at the job at hand."
Arpin’s best showing in the Nationwide Series this past year was a 10th place finish at the Subway Jalapeno 250 on July 2nd at Daytona, driving the new Nationwide C.O.T.
"To come out of Daytona with a top-10 was an amazing feeling for me,” Arpin said. “The guys back at the JRM shop have put a ton of work into our restrictor-plate program and I think it showed with the finish we had there."
Arpin is best known, though, for his racing on the ARCA circuit as he won three races and recorded six other top 10s driving the No. 55 for Venturini Motorsports.
“I think of all the places to get your first ARCA win, Salem is just the coolest place in the world,” he said in reference to the first win at Salem. “Regardless, you’re going to absolutely love it but just the history and looking at who has run there and who has won there is absolutely unbelievable. There’s just so much history. Like, almost every driver that’s in the Cup Series has raced at Salem one time or another. It’s just a really cool place.”
Arpin began racing in the ARCA season in 2008 after catching the eye of Eddie Sharp whole driving USAC Silver Crown cars for Carl Edwards.
However, things didn’t work out with Eddie Sharp so he made the transition to Venturini Motorsports.
“Before I signed up with Venturini Motorsports, I had talked to Bill Venturini a little bit and we really hit it off good,” Arpin said in speaking of how the deal came together. “But we were so far ahead with our deal with ESR that we decided to go with ESR and start in that direction and we really just kept in touch with Venturini. They just watched our performance and about halfway through the year when I talked with them, when my deal with ESR was up, we re-evaluated our program and we realized things weren’t going right there we decided to go with Venturini.”
Arpin ended the 2009 ARCA Season seventh in points and took home the Most Popular Driver award.
Easily, Arpin could have finished in the top 10 in points this year, though he missed some races as a result of running seven races for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.
“When the opportunity came up to drive for Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. for them seven races, it was a pretty incredible thing that we just couldn’t pass up,” Arpin reasoned.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. chose to put Arpin in the No. 7 after both Mark Martin and Carl Edwards recommended him. The first meeting between Arpin and Earnhardt Jr. took place at Texas, a week before his first start.
“It was pretty cool,” he told me back in June. “I was always a Dale Jr. fan growing up. I liked how he showed a lot of respect and didn’t tear up a lot of his equipment. It was neat as the first time I met him, he was sitting in the trailer and you’d never know you’re sitting next to Dale Earnhardt Jr."
"Since then, we’ve been able to hang out a little bit though not that much with both of our schedules. He’s also been good at giving me advice whenever I need it and sometimes we walk through what to expect at a track before running it.”
The entire experience, however, didn’t set in for Arpin till Talladega.
“To be honest, it didn’t set in till I was sitting on pit road with Carl Edwards beside me, Kevin Harvick on the pole and saw Dale Jr.’s name on the car,” he said. “Just to be involved and to be recognized for what I’ve done is an honor. It’s the biggest accomplishment so far for me with having Tony Eury Jr. as the crew chief and Kelley Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the owner.”
Working with Tony Jr. turned out to be a plus for Arpin as it allowed him to learn a lot.
"Tony Jr. is a great crew chief and mentor,” Arpin said. “Even for his age, he's got a ton of experience and has seen pretty much everything this sport can throw at you. He's an awesome guy to have in your corner."
Right out of the gate, he met expectations as he qualified fourth in his first start at Talladega Superspeedway. Though a pit road speeding penalty set him back and a crash late in the race resulted in a 26th place finish.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “We had a really good car at Talladega. The pit road speeding penalty put us behind; we were only speeding by 0.03mph.”
The next three races he ran didn’t end much better, with the only highlight being a qualifying effort of seventh at Charlotte.
“Charlotte was the means of miscommunication and me not checking my mirrors,” he said in reference to the wreck. “You’ve got to learn every time you’re out, whether good or bad, and it’s been a good learning experience. Actually, this past month I’ve learned more then I had up to this point in racing.”
In Tony Eury Jr.’s mind, Arpin did well those first couple of races.
“Steve has impressed us with what he's been able to do in the No. 7 Chevrolet with his limited experience," Tony Eury Jr. told me back in June. "There's no doubt the kid has a lot of talent, especially with what he's been able to do dirt racing. He had a couple great qualifying efforts at Talladega and Charlotte over the past few weeks."
"He did have his work cut out for him at Richmond and Darlington, which are two of the toughest tracks we race at. Being a rookie in the series it's not easy to run at those facilities. We've had some growing pains, and caught some bad luck with a couple wrecks, but overall, he's shown promise.”
Looking over everything, Arpin called it a good year.
“We were really fast wherever we went. We accomplished a lot of what we wanted to accomplish,” Arpin said. “We won more races than anyone else in the series and didn’t even race all of the races. It was, all in all, a really good year and opened up a lot of doors. We have a lot of possibilities for moving up next year.”
Arpin grew up racing racing on dirt at Emo Speedway so he has gone through a steep learning curve the past couple of years, learning about asphalt racing.
“The hardest thing was to forget all I knew on dirt racing that I thought would help on asphalt,” he said. “It was a real eye opener when I started running asphalt. Basically, you got to throw away 98% of what you know about dirt racing.”
In this past year with what he has learned, he said it could fill a novel, but noted patience was the biggest lesson.
“Back in dirt racing, you would take the green flag and you would have 20 or 25 laps and that’s it. That’s the race,” he explained. You’ve got to be 100 percent every lap.
“On the asphalt races, you’ve got 200 and 300 laps. When you’re getting 60, 70, 80 laps on a set of tires, it’s really easy to be really fast at the start of a run and then use up your equipment, use up your tires, and then from Lap 40 on, you’re really slow.”
Arpin’s love for racing started at the local dirt track at the age of five.
“I started going to the dirt tracks with my dad and watching dirt track racing with my dad and I’ve just loved it ever since,” he said. “When I was about eight years old, when I found there was a go-kart track that was about 45 minutes away, I just kind of worked my butt off for two years delivering newspapers and all that kind of stuff like that to try to save enough money to buy my first go-kart. By the time I was 10, I had enough money saved up to buy a go-kart and that’s where it all started.”
Arpin quickly showed that he had the talent as he started winning races at the go-kart and dirt modified level quickly, including a record that still stands today of winning every race at Emo Speedway for three straight years.
His success on dirt at Emo Speedway in Ontario and across the United States caught everybody's attention, including Sprint Cup Series veteran Mark Martin.
Martin was quoted saying on SB Nation that he’d pick Arpin against anybody on dirt.
“I didn’t know he said that till I heard Dale Jr. say that on national TV,” Arpin said of the quote. “It knocked the wind out of me hearing that. For Mark Martin to go out of his way and say something like that means a lot to me. He’s a guy with a lot of respect so you listen if you hear something coming from him.”
Arpin has been through his share of adversity as the beginning of 2008 was rough for Arpin, as he would suffer burns on his hands, thighs, and groin as a result of a radiator hose blowing off and spraying him with water.
Away from the track he’s got his mind on racing, though he likes spending time with his wife Katrina.
“Thinking about the next time I’m going back to the track,” he said when I asked what he likes to do away from the track. “With the schedule, I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t had a lot of time to do much otherwise. When I’m not at the track, I’ve been running the simulator's to try to get better."
“When I do get time, I like to hang out with my wife (Katrina) as we don’t get a lot of time. The other day we played tennis. When we get back from Michigan actually, we’re going to take a trip to Charleston.”
Though five years down the road, Arpin hopes he’s at the Cup Series level.
“My dream is to be in the Cup Series,” he said. “I’d like to win the ARCA Championship this year and then keep a relationship going with JR Motorsports next year. Though I don’t want to move up too quick as I want to make sure I’m ready when the opportunity comes.”
To those who are looking to get to Arpin’s level, he says stick with it no matter what.
“Don’t get down,” he said. “There was a lot of people telling me you can’t do it, it’s all about the money, but I stuck with it and went after it. If you know you can do it, then keep going after it.”