Arpin returns home for visit between races

Lucas Punkari

With a week off between races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Steve Arpin had an chance to head to a place that he hasn’t been to in a couple of years.
The 27-year-old made the trek up from Des Moines, Iowa last Monday for a brief visit back in his hometown of Fort Frances before heading down to Indianapolis, Ind. over the weekend to prepare for his fourth race of the 2011 season—the AAA Insurance 200 this Friday night at Lucas Oil Raceway.
“I wish I would have known sooner that the bass tournament was this weekend, otherwise I would have tried to cancel my appearances in Indianapolis,” joked Arpin, who last visited the area for his older brother’s wedding two years ago.
“To roll through Customs and be back in Fort Frances for the first time in a couple of years is just awesome, and I really miss it here,” he added.
“I miss the small town, just being at home with everything being so laid back and relaxing.
“It’s just a nice feeling,” he remarked.
While home, Arpin not only got to see his family again but also got to meet in person his new niece, Peyton Lilly, who was born June 26.
“She is absolutely tiny and she’s just adorable,” he smiled.
“I was holding her once I got there and she’s not even as tall as my forearm, but she is just as cute and happy as can be.”
Prior to his visit home, Arpin was at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he drove his #32 Mike’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet Silverado to a 13th-place finish back on July 16.
Making his first-ever Truck Series start on a short track, Arpin lined up 13th on the starting grid when the field took the green flag, then stayed around that area throughout the night.
“We snuck into the top 10 at one point, and stayed around eighth to ninth place for quite a while there throughout that run,” he recalled.
“We ended up having a bad pit stop later on in the night, though, as we came into the pits in eighth place and came out in 13th.”
Arpin tried to work his way back up into the top 10 during the late stages of the race, but he quickly discovered his truck was quite sensitive when running in traffic.
“I could catch people and run them down but the truck was so line sensitive, which means that there was only one line on the track that I had to drive to be able to carry the speed,” he explained.
“If I changed that line by moving up or down the track, the truck was just so loose that I couldn’t be aggressive when I was racing with people.
“I had to pull the reins back on myself a little bit and say, ‘All right, a 13th-place finish is better than a 25th-place finish with a wrecked truck,” he reasoned.
While the end result was another solid showing for Arpin, and one position off his career-best finish of 12th a week prior in Kentucky, the Fort Frances driver was still hungry for more.
“I’m probably the one person who is the most disappointed in our finishes more than anybody,” he admitted.
“Our team owner [Steve Turner] is happy with how things are going for us, and we do have to keep in consideration that we have only run three [Truck Series] races so far and we are running in the top 15 consistently.
“In hindsight, I wish we had a better truck for Iowa and I wish I had given the guys some better feedback during practice, but that is something that will come with more experience,” he reasoned.
“The biggest thing for us is that we left Iowa without a scratch on the truck, and now the guys back at the shop are working on going faster instead of having to fix equipment.”
Prior to the start of the 200-lap affair at Iowa, Arpin had a chance to show his lighter side to those watching the pre-race show on Speed Channel.
He and pit reporter Ray Dunlap went head-to-head in a Mike’s Hard Lemonade display-building contest that was taped two days prior to the race at a local grocery store.
“That was a lot of fun,” enthused Arpin, though noting the minute-and-a-half segment took two hours to film.
“There were all of these people in the grocery store in the morning just going about their business, and they look around and they are going, ‘God, what’s going on here?’
“There’s Speed cameras everywhere, there’s two idiots [he and Dunlap] racing down the aisles banging carts off one another, and then you have the kids watching on saying, ‘Mom, can I do that?’” Arpin laughed.
The night before that segment was taped, Arpin was able to return to the world of dirt track racing as he took part in the Gopher 50 Modified race at the Deer Creek Speedway in Rochester, Mn.
“Have you ever seen a little kid the first time they walk into a candy store, when they have their eyes just wide open and they start shaking and bouncing?” Arpin asked.
“That’s what it was like for me to go back to Deer Creek and race there.
“I lived there for four or five years and that is where my career really started to take off towards the next level, so to see everyone there again was great,” he stressed.
Prior to that race, Arpin, making his first start on the dirt since he ran in the same event a year ago, was hoping the transition from asphalt to dirt would be just like riding a bike.
However, the switch back to dirt proved to be anything but a smooth ride.
“We went out for hot laps and on the first corner of the first lap, I ended up tagging the wall a little bit,” Arpin remarked.
“So I had to back up and say to myself, ‘All right, this is a little bit different. These cars have come a long way since I used to race them.’”
After finishing in fifth place in his heat, Arpin then piloted his #00 car to a third-place result in the ‘B’ Main, which gave him a 22nd-place starting spot for the 50-lap main event.
“We worked our way up to eighth or ninth place, but then we ended up blowing a motor on Lap 20,” he recalled.
“But it was still cool to get back out on the dirt again, and I had just as much fun getting out of the car and watching the guys duke it out from the infield,” he enthused.
Although Arpin hasn’t made any official commitments to running more dirt races this season, there is one track he would like to run on before the 2011 season draws to a close.
“There’s one place that’s really special to me that I want to get back to, and that’s obviously racing around here again at the Emo Speedway,” he said.
“There’s just so much stuff going on right now that to be able to plan something like that in advance is just so hard.
“I hope to God I can make it happen this year, but it’s just matter of how the scheduling falls and what we have on our plate for later this year,” he reasoned.
In the meantime, Arpin currently is readying for Friday night’s race at Lucas Oil Speedway, which also will mark the last appearance for both the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series at the 0.686-mile oval for the considerable future.
Going into the 200-lap affair, which will be aired live on Speed at 6:30 p.m. (CDT), the goal is simple for Arpin: pick up that first-ever top 10 finish in the Truck Series.
“They’re right there in front of us, that’s the frustrating part,” Arpin remarked.
“At Iowa, we had a tough pit stop at the end of the race, at Kentucky, it was right there and I was sick as a dog, and at Texas [where he tangled late with Austin Dillon], I was just an idiot,” he noted.
“If we make one less mistake every race, we can pick up another position or two. And who knows, if we put together that perfect race at Indy or at Chicago, we might even win a race.
“It’s definitely not impossible but it’s one of those deals where the stars have to align with myself, the team, and [the] over the wall crew all having a perfect day with no mistakes,” Arpin stressed.
“It’s a hard thing to do but if it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” he reasoned.