Arpin roars into new season

Courtesy of
Brittany Frederick

If Red Bull Global Rallycross had a Most Improved Driver Award last year, it would have been in the hands of Steve Arpin.
Always flying just under the radar, the Fort Frances native’s second year with Chip Ganassi Racing was the one where the pieces finally dropped into place–and his response was to make team history and nearly clinch a championship podium.
The 2016 GRC season may have belonged to Andretti and Volkswagen, but Steve and his Ganassi squad are biting at their heels.
It’s only a matter of time before Steve gets that championship spot and he joined Beyond The Flag for a conversation about how last season pushed him ahead of the pack and what he thinks is in his future.
“Our whole goal coming into this past season was to go to Los Angeles with a shot at the championship and get a medal,” he reflected.
“It was a longer shot than we wanted, but we’re definitely there. And if you look a couple weeks before that, we’re within nine points to the lead,” continued Arpin.
“We just had a couple bad weekends and it hurt us in the points.
“We learned a lot last year,” he continued. “I think we’re one of the more consistent, strong cars out there and it’s really kind of exciting to know how far we came.
We’re a privateer team; we don’t have the money the manufacturers put into to the Volkswagens and Hondas,” he pointed out.
“So that being said, I’m really happy with where we’ve been able to elevate our program all on our own.”
You could call 2016 the reinvention of Steve Arpin.
In each of his four GRC seasons, he’s always had talent; what he lacked was the resources around him to make it shine.
Enter Ganassi, and in 2015 we saw driver and team take their time to learn one another and plot a plan of attack.
Now this year–and beyond–is when the hard work pays off and Steve Arpin marches right to the front of the line where he belongs.
He gained two places in the championship standings last year–you could even say three considering his teammate Brian Deegan’s victory pushed him back one at the end–and told us that time was the biggest difference maker.
“[2015] was a tough year for us,” Steve reflected.
“It was our first year in the series, my first year in a quality car and something that was competitive, and of all the guys on our team, the only two guys that I’ve seen in a Rallycross race before was myself and our race engineer. Everyone else was NASCAR guys.
“We got a year under our belt, learned a lot of things, learned a lot the hard way,” he continued, “and were able to take everything we learned from year one and just really focus on capitalizing on the lessons we learned and getting better at the things we struggled with last year.
‘I think that’s more of a testament to how a professional racing team works.”
It’s also a testament to what it takes to be a professional racer. There is rarely such a thing as overnight success in any field.
Talent means nothing if you don’t do something with it, and Steve and his hard-working CGR crew were willing to learn, re-evaluate and put in the time to be their best selves.
They didn’t assume success because of the Ganassi name; they earned it, particularly when some solid driving–and a helping of fate–made Steve the winner in the first GRC race at Daytona, which was also the first-ever victory for him and for Chip Ganassi Racing in Rallycross.
“That was like one of those perfect weeks,” Steve recalled of winning at Daytona.
“It was the start of an awesome relationship with a new partner; we had Jacob Companies on board and we just hit it off so good because they’re just good people and it’s one of those things that’s perfect,” he commented.
“I’m just a normal kid from a small town in Canada that’s living his dream racing race cars for a living,” he added.
“If you’re a racer, you want the opportunity at some point in your career to race at Daytona International Speedway. To get my first win there was remarkable. You couldn’t write the script any better.
“And then to lead into our relationship with Jacob–everything was just a phenomenal weekend for our entire team.”
Needless to say, with two Red Bull Global Rallycross victories and a three-four finish in the title standings last season, the mood around the CGR race shop is pretty optimistic as Arpin and his colleagues look ahead to the rest of 2017 after finishing third in the season opener in Memphis.
“We’re all happy. The fact that one of us was going to be on the podium at the end of that race was an accomplishment for all these guys,” Steve said of Deegan’s victory in Los Angeles at the end of last season. “It was awesome to end the season off with a win.
“We had a strong weekend, we were one of the fastest cars there all weekend long. Unfortunately circumstances didn’t allow us to showcase that in the main,” he continued, “but going into the off-season it was all business.
“Let’s regroup, take a step back and look at everything we’ve learned, everything we did right, everything we did wrong and make everything better.
“We need to step up our game a little bit,” he added.
“Looking at stats we were a consistent third and fourth-place car behind the two Volkswagens, so we definitely need to up our game a little bit to leapfrog them this year.”
Steve’s not even that bothered by the fact that Deegan winning also allowed him to leap over him in the championship points–even though it would’ve been Steve’s first top-three finish.
“I wanted to be third more than anything. I wanted to celebrate with the guys,” he told us, “but when it comes to something like that it’s not about me.
“There is a part of me inside that is like ‘Oh, God, that was awesome’ and I wish that was me, but that’s just me being selfish.
“It’s all these guys putting time and effort into doing it all year long. It doesn’t matter if it’s me or Brian up on the podium. It’s all about the boys.”
Which points toward the intangible ‘It Factor’ that may be Steve’s ace in the hole as he aims to continue his success this year.
He has his head in the absolute right place all of the time, whether it’s his complete lack of ego or his perpetually sunny disposition.
Other drivers might be nervous before a race or upset after it, but every time there’s a camera on Steve Arpin, he seems like he’s just happy to be invited to the party.
That even keel keeps him on target in addition to making him a fan favourite.
So in a sport that’s so tough, and a career that has thrown plenty of ups and downs at him, how is he always so positive?
“Have you seen my wife? I married up so much it’s hard to not always be happy,” he laughed when we asked him about his attitude.
“I married up that much and I race cars for a living. It’s hard to not be happy,” Steve declared.
“If you really take a step back, we had a Make-A-Wish boy that came and spent the weekend with us in Los Angeles. His name was Micah.
He was waving the flag; he said that was his dream to wave the flags, so he was up there being an interim flagman,” Steve continued.
“I get to race cars for a weekend and my bad day was getting a flat tire and losing third place on the podium.
“Their normal day is dealing with struggles I could never even imagine,” he stated. “A bad day for me would be a dream come true for so many people in the world.
“It’s really easy to keep a smile on my face all the time. It’s really easy to be happy.
I get frustrated every now and then,” he added, “but then I just put things into perspective and take a whole reality check for the situation I’m in and I get a smile back on my face.
“That’s just how it works.”
From the most outgoing personality to a wonderful team behind him and a dedicated work ethic, Steve Arpin has all the tools not just for his own success but to be a major player in Red Bull Global Rallycross’s future.
He will be winning more races and he’s also a driver that the league should be building itself around, because on track or off he always brings something.
We’re just now getting to see the full extent of what Steve Arpin is capable of, and look what happened.
Even though last season is over and he’s more than thrilled with his accomplishments, Steve isn’t resting on his laurels.
He’s spending his time reviewing the results and figuring out an even better approach for this campaign.
“The biggest thing I’m going through right now is, I look at the point deficit between the Volkswagens and myself and even Deegan, and it’s like where did I give up points?,” queried Steve.
“Where did I make mistakes? What could I have done better as a driver? What different decisions could I have made throughout the year that would have improved ourselves at the end?
“And really dissecting the information I gave my crew chief,” he said.
“What was the information that I provided him that gave him the best data he needed to make the right decisions on the car and to get us to the next level?
“So what I’m doing right now is going through really dissecting myself and what I can do on the race track to improve and what I can do off the race track to improve and really working hard,” he added.
“The way I look at it, these guys were working their tails off in the off-season to give me the best that I can have in 2017 and I’ve got to do my best to give them that same respect and that same effort.”
Arpin returns to action on Sunday with the second tour stop occurring in Louisvile, Ky.