Arpin shining on the race track

He has the ability to keep control of his vehicle if it slides, spins, or gets bumped sideways, and can push the car to its limits (sometimes even beyond).
In his hands, the race car behaves almost as if it’s an extension of his body. And like Allen Iverson fighting through a screen set by Shaquille O’Neal, there is no gap in the pack too small for him to squeeze through.
We’re talking about Steve Arpin, the 21-year-old (“Man, I’m getting old,” as he put it) Fort Frances racing phenom who has a rare and unique skill that puts him in the front of the pack rather than in the middle.
Out in front is where Arpin spent most of his time during his 22-day sabbatical in Florida that ended a few weeks ago. And guess what? He already misses it.
“It was unreal,” Arpin said from the office of his dad, Chuck, at Pinewood Sports and Marine here. “I learned so much and I raced against the best of the best, but I wish we never came back.”
The other racers probably are glad he’s gone given his results.
At the Putnam County Speedway Renegade 100 in Satsuma, for instance, he placed third overall.
At the Valusia Speedway Park, he went from 12th to third in the heat, then took the lead in the feature after starting in 17th place before a crash caused by another driver prevented him from crossing the finish line.
He blew a motor the following night, then placed third in a few more events the rest of the way.
Then at the East Bay Speedway in Tampa Bay, Arpin was drawn 22nd but fought his way to seventh before another crash sent him to the back of the pack. Yet, miraculously, he got back up to ninth place.
Not too shabby when you consider these races came against “the absolute best of the best” dirt-track drivers—and did so in front of a few notable NASCAR names like Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, and Dave Blaney.
“When those kind of guys are there, you always want to take your racing to the next level and be on your game because they’re in the stands watching,” said Arpin.
“And you want to be consistent because that’s what they look for—consistently,” he added.
Arpin went to Florida for a brief stint last year and did well. But he was there mostly to see “if we could compete, and we did really well, but we didn’t nearly have the success that we had this year,” he remarked.
In the stands were representatives from Wagamon Bros. Engines and AGCO Racing Products, who have since joined the array of sponsors that already are stitched on Arpin’s racing suit.
“AGCO saw us at the USMTS [United States Modified Touring Series] last fall in Deer Creek [Minnesota] and we caught there eye,” noted Arpin. “And they saw us in Bates Field last fall, and then in Florida, and they saw we were staying consistent.”
With “a simply amazing” pit crew in Danny Boileau, Chuck Arpin, Joey Galloway, and Dale Jerry, along with a new motor program set up by Wagamon, Jay McDonald Race Cars, and Larry Shaw Race Cars, Arpin believes the pieces are in place for a successful season that potentially can garner even more attention than he’s already getting.
“Since we’ve gotten involved with them, we found out how much we didn’t know,” said Arpin, referring to his sponsors’ involvement, especially Larry Shaw Race Cars, which joined the Arpin team this past January.
“It’s getting pretty exciting, and it’s getting real serious,” added Arpin, who, before his trip to Florida, attended the Larry Shaw Chasse Set-Up School in Arkansas and will be attending the school’s driving course later this month.
In the meantime, next Wednesday is when Arpin and his crew will be hitting the road for Batesville, Ark. for the Mark Martin Tribute event for the beginning of a road trip that could rival the schedule of any rock star.
You won’t be seeing Arpin on a weekend in Fort Frances until November as he will be traveling to various spots around the U.S. in a racing season that brings feelings of anxiousness.
“It’s going to be an exciting year,” enthused Arpin, who says to make steps in racing, one has to be willing to go to locations where people in the right places can witness your talents.
“You have to be where those scouts are at and you want them to see that you’re consistently in the top five and top three,” he noted. “You have to catch their eye at the right place and at the right time.”
Arpin, who credits all he’s done to the Emo Speedway, where he got his start as a blazing 15-year-old, quickly has become proficient in racing’s most fundamental art: setting up another driver and making a pass in the corner.
He also has the attitude that’s a prerequisite in a sport of suspense and thrills.
“I’m just like ‘bring it on,’” he said. “It’s the only way to be in a race car.
“If you get nervous and you’re going into a corner at 130 m.p.h., and there is two guys below you and two guys above you and you’re all touching tires, if you’re not up for it, then you’re going to go straight to the back.”
But Arpin conceded he still has much to learn in a sport that uses advanced physics (“I still use things from Mr. [Andrew] Hallikas’ physics class,” he says).
“You can never know everything. And there is no such thing as bad information,” he stressed. “You may not use all the information you get, but you have to try and take as much as you can in.
“Sometimes I stick my nose in places where it shouldn’t be on the track, and I sometimes make those ‘zero or hero’ moves,” said Arpin, who describes his racing style as being “very, very aggressive.”
“My dad is really trying to put patience into me,” he admitted.
There is a confidence to Arpin that is reserved for people who have been blessed with talents, but his confidence refreshingly has not turned to the side of cockiness.
In his garage, which is Dukes of Hazzard-ish in its raw authenticity, is where Arpin is most comfortable here. He is surrounded by a few trophies that have been placed atop shelves (“Those are the little ones because the big ones couldn’t fit up there”).
And with parts to his hopeful future sprawled around him, Arpin is hoping to follow in the footsteps of such drivers like Kasey Kahne—NASCAR’s rookie of the year.
“I watched a documentary on him the other day and listening to his in-car radios when he’s on the track is the exact same vocabulary that we use,” Arpin remarked.
“He grew up with the same lifestyle that I did. His parents gave him the world to do what he does, and my parents are doing that for me,” he noted.
“It’s what we love to do, but I want to do what he [Kahne] does—and I want to do it now.”
But like his dad says, Patience, my young boy, patience.