Arpin meets with fans here prior to next race

Lucas Punkari

Since moving south of the border to further his racing career, Fort Frances native Steve Arpin hasn’t had a chance to have a get-together with his fans following a stellar tenure at the Emo Speedway.
But the 28-year-old finally got a chance to meet his local faithful once again last Thursday night when he took part in a “meet-and-greet” at Boston Pizza here prior to his next Nationwide Series race at the Iowa Speedway this Sunday (May 20).
“Every time that I come home, I’m usually trying to see as many friends and family members as I can, so I haven’t had a chance to meet up with everyone who has been sending e-mails from here with their support,” noted Arpin, who was in town this past weekend for his niece’s baptism.
“To have that many people come out in one place at one time to support us was really neat, and I don’t even know how to properly describe how it felt for me,” he admitted.
Besides chatting with fans and meeting up with people he hadn’t seen in a number of years, Arpin also signed numerous autographs during the two-hour event, with some interesting items besides the usual T-shirts and hats being brought to him.
“I know that I signed at least a couple of cellphones,” he laughed.
“The coolest thing, though, was when a boy brought in his brand new body that he’ll be putting on his go-kart at Emo this year, and he wanted me to sign that before he went out onto the track.”
After his brief visit back home, Arpin now is on the appearance circuit in Iowa this week prior to getting back behind the wheel of the #30 Mike’s On The Rocks Chevrolet Impala for Turner Motorsports in Sunday’s Pioneer Hi-Bred 250.
“It’s going to be really busy before we even get onto the track for practice on Saturday,” Arpin stressed.
“We’re actually doing a lot of work with the track itself here, and so we will be working a lot with the sponsors here at the track, along with doing a number of really cool things during the weekend itself,” he noted.
Having made four previous starts at the 7/8th-mile oval in the ARCA, Camping World Truck, and Nationwide Series’ over the past couple of seasons, the Newton, Iowa track is one of Arpin’s favourites that he’s raced on, especially with it being the closest facility to Fort Frances.
“That is what makes that place stand out for me as I get to see so many people that I used to race with down in that area,” he remarked.
“And it’s also a convenient place for my friends and family to come down and watch.
“As far as the racing end of it goes, Iowa’s a fun fast little race track that has the speed of a intermediate [1.5-mile] track,” he added. “But at the same time, it also races like a short track.
“You can beat and bang around there, and there is also so much you can do as a driver to compensate for a car that’s not working exactly right.”
Heading into this weekend’s race, Arpin has been honing his skills on pit road as he’s been driving the car the Hendrick Motorsports team uses to work on its pit crew training sessions during the middle of the week.
“The biggest thing for me is just getting those chances to work on my pit road entry and exit over and over again,” said Arpin, who felt that was an issue in his 10th-place finish at the Texas Motor Speedway last month.
“A 10th of a second gained here or there can help you gain a spot in the pits on every pit stop, and I’ve already got myself now to a point where I am consistently six- or seven-10ths of a second better from where I was before,” he noted.
“That kind of thing will gain you at least two or three spots on pit road every time.”
After finishing 10th in his lone start of the season thus far at Texas, Arpin is looking to improve on that this weekend in the 250-lap affair at Iowa, which will air live on ABC at 1 p.m.
“That’s what we have our sights set on,” he stressed.
“Short-track racing is always tough, as the tracks themselves aren’t very forgiving if you make any little mistake out there,” he admitted.
“But if everything goes right for us, and the work that the team has done since last year in Iowa translates over to this year, I think we can come out of there with a top five.
“And that would be huge for me.”
With Sunday’s start marking the last of a two-race stint for Turner Motorsports, Arpin already has been hard at work on getting in more races this season.
“We’ve been working hard every day, all day long, in regards to that, especially with getting some more sponsors on board with us,” he noted.
“We really impressed a lot of people and turned a lot of heads in Texas with a top-10 finish, especially since that was my first time back in a car since I ran in the Truck Series last September,” Arpin added.
“Right now, we have a lot of irons in the fire and there are some things that are coming up, for sure.”
While deals for possible rides in one of the three NASCAR national touring series still are being worked out, Arpin will get a chance to return to the ARCA Series for a three-race stint starting at the Elko Speedway, just outside of Minneapolis, next month, when he will get back behind the wheel for Venturini Motorsports.
“That deal actually came together just in the past week,” noted Arpin, who will be sponsored by Loenbro Comprehensive Pipeline Solutions out of Montana.
“We have had a great relationship with the Venturinis when I ran full-time in ARCA a couple of years ago, and business is going really well for them right now as they are running five cars in the series.
“So they used this as an opportunity to try and give back for us helping them,” he explained.
Arpin’s two other starts will be during ARCA’s two dirt-track events on Sunday, Aug. 19 in Springfield, Ill. and on Monday, Sept. 3 in DuQuoin, Ill.