Arpin has big things planned for next season

Dan Falloon

Local driver Steve Arpin can’t talk much about how he’ll be spending his time in the 2011 auto racing season, but he has a couple of possibilities narrowed down.
Arpin is looking to latch on under the NASCAR banner full-time, be it on the Nationwide Series or the Camping World Truck Series.
“I’ve got incredible plans of what I want to do,” he enthused. “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.”
Arpin acknowledged that this time of year off the track has kept his appointment book full as he tries to get next season all planned out.
“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.”
With either option, Arpin noted 2011 will be a learning year. He’s never raced trucks before, making that option brand new.
Meanwhile, although he competed in seven Nationwide races in 2010, there still are some challenges.
For instance, the Nationwide circuit has several courses that would be new to Arpin, and also is permanently implementing the C.O.T (“Car of Today”) after testing it in a couple of races last year.
“We’re going to be starting all over,” he admitted.
“We’re going to go into next year with realistic expectations, and try to have a good solid year of learning and developing myself into a NASCAR driver,” Arpin added.
“We’ll look for a good, solid, strong performance at the end of next year and into 2012.”
Arpin’s best showing on the Nationwide Series was a 10th place finish at the Subway Jalapeno 250 on July 2 at Daytona.
The 26-year-old also drove on the ARCA circuit this past season, winning three races and recording six other top 10 finishes.
Arpin’s 3,735 points landed him 12th in the overall standings after he had finished seventh in his rookie season in 2009, but that statistic isn’t indicative of struggles.
Because of his commitment to the Nationwide Series, Arpin missed the fifth and sixth ARCA races of the year—costing him valuable points as well as other bonuses.
ARCA gives out point bonuses for drivers who complete all of the races in a given five-race block, meaning Arpin missed the bonus for not only races 1-5 but 6-10, as well.
“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.
As well, Arpin suffered some misfortune late in the season that cost him some potentially fine results.
“We kind of got struck by a lot of bad luck,” he recalled. “[We] went onto Salem, Ind. and we were running second at Salem and a rock went through the radiator.
“It put a hole in the radiator and overheated the engine.
“I was running second at the last race of the year, as well, and ran out of gas at the white flag.”
Still, Arpin had a late-season win at the Southern Illinois 100 in DuQuoin, Ill. and finished second at the Kansas Lottery 150 in Kansas City, Kan., so the bad luck cost him a shot at complete late-season dominance.
He was thrilled with the year, overall, and is ready for the chance to move up a level.
“We were really fast wherever we went. We accomplished a lot of what we wanted to accomplish,” Arpin enthused.
“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,” he continued.
“We have a lot of possibilities for moving up next year.”
Arpin, who cut his teeth on the dirt track at the Emo Speedway, said that what he learned this year could fill a novel, but noted patience was the biggest virtue he picked up in 2010.
“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,” he noted.
“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.”
In a similar vein, Arpin noted his planning and timing also improved greatly over the year.
“Knowing my car and how much I could push at the start of a run, when to make a move on a pass, when to just hold off and wait for a better opportunity,” he cited.
“Lots of times, you’d see us in the middle of the pack throughout the race, but at the end of the race we’d be battling for the lead.
“That was all by design,” he stressed.
The intricate lessons Arpin learned were ones he only could pick up after gaining a base knowledge of the series and its courses in his rookie year.
But given the chance to advance, he’s more than happy to give up the familiarity and start fresh at a higher level.
“Last year, when we showed up at the race track, I was trying to figure out the race track, so everywhere we went was a brand new place for me,” he recalled.
“This year, it’s so nice because you can go there and you can concentrate on your driving and concentrate on what your car’s doing rather than trying to figure out the race track.
“Coming back for a second year, you know all these places,” he noted.