Local ARCA racer Steve Arpin was able to earn his third win of the season at the Southern Illinois 100 in DuQuoin, Ill. on Monday.
Arpin edged out Tom Hessert, who tied for the overall points title with Patrick Sheltra with 3,870 points.
Though Arpin has fallen out of contention in the overall standings, sitting 13th with 2,795 points, he noted that at this point in the season, with nothing to lose, that his results may actually improve as the season dwindles down.
“We’re not points racing,” stressed the 26-year-old, who cut his teeth at Emo Speedway.
“It’s actually kind of fun, because when you’re points racing, you have to be so cautious with everything you do.
“You can’t take risks. If you have a third or a fourth-place car, you have to accept a third or a fourth-place finish to not take a chance of something happening and ending up 15th or 20th,” he reasoned.
“Now that we’re not points racing, we can go for the win each and every week.”
Arpin noted that with the pressure off, he and his Venturini Motorsports team are able to race with a focus on the here-and-now without keeping an eye on the big picture.
“We can be aggressive, we can race hard, we can try to make bold decisions and take risks,” he enthused.
“As far as moves on the racetrack or pit strategy, we can think a little bit outside the box from that end of it as opposed to being on the real cautious side and thinking big picture.”
Arpin felt that there was no better example than in Monday’s race, when he and his pit crew took the time to overhaul all four tires when other drivers concentrated on only their right side.
“We made a gamble in the pit stop because most guys only took two tires, put right-side tires on it,” he recalled.
“We decided to take all four tires.
“We came into the pits running second and I came back out running 20th, so it was a long ways to the front from there, but the adjustment we made was perfect.
“It loosened up enough that I could drive it and manoeuvre it in traffic. We came all the way through the field and won it at the end,” stressed Arpin.
The risk was particularly notable because it was a decision that would have been much more difficult to make if he were running higher in the overall standings.
“When you race a place like this, with the little competition that we have here, track position is so important,” he argued.
“For us to give up 18 spots on the racetrack, that pit stop was a huge risk for us.
“We felt it was the right way to go, whereas my teammate, Mikey Kile, for example, he’s still points racing so he had to take two tires to stay up front and stay with the leaders and stick with them.”
Arpin began the race fourth on the starting grid, hanging around in the early-going before taking the pit and being forced to make his way back up.
The pit helped change the way the car was handling, and allowed Arpin to navigate the mess and eventually pass Hessert on lap 62.
“We hung around second and third the whole race. I passed for the lead once and he passed me right back,” recalled Arpin,
“We were just too tight at the start of the race.
“We just rode around to try to hold our own at the start until we could come in and do a pit stop, put tires on it and make an adjustment to the car.”
Things didn’t ease up once Arpin began to set the pace, though, as a number of cautions allowed the field to catch up and stay on Arpin’s tail for the remainder of the afternoon.
“It was a hard-fought battle for sure, because once I got the lead, there were five cautions after that and I had the whole field on my bumper every time,” stressed Arpin.
“One or two times, you can deal with.
“I told my crew chief on one of the last restarts ‘Man, they are really making us work for this one today’.”
Arpin also held a bit of an advantage on the day because of his vast dirt track racing experience, beginning from the local Emo Speedway.
Several of Arpin’s ARCA competitors also grew up on dirt tracks, but Arpin was the one who was ultimately able to put that knowledge to good use on Monday.
“There are just things you learn from racing on the dirt so much on how to use the racetrack, how to use different lines to your advantage, how to adjust your driving, and what the car’s telling you,” explained Arpin.
“With all the experience I have in dirt racing, I can catch onto that real quick and use that to my advantage.
“These are big, heavy stock cars that are not made for running on dirt. All the dirt stuff we used to run was 2,200-pound cars and stuff like that, and these are 3,400-pound cars with 850 horsepower,” he continued.
“They’re just so big and heavy and not made for the dirt that it’s just wild, absolutely wild driving around there.”
Arpin concluded by mentioning that he’ll have a bit of a different look for the rest of the season, beginning with Sunday’s Northwest Ohio Ford Dealers 200 at Toledo Speedway.
“We’re kicking off the Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade program this week in Toledo,” enthused Arpin, who is sponsored by Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
“I’m going to be running a pink car with a pink suit and everything in support of breast cancer research for the remainder of the year.”
Arpin also noted that as part of the tie-in, the beverage company will be making a $250,000 donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.