Eye-opening experience for Arpin at Daytona

Mitch Calvert

It was a weekend to remember for Fort Frances native Steve Arpin at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 on Saturday afternoon at the Daytona International Speedway.
Some of those memories may not all be fond ones, but the 25-year-old enjoyed the experience all the same.
“It’s every race car driver’s dream to race at Daytona and even though it didn’t go as we wanted, it was absolutely incredible,” Arpin enthused. “I had so many people from home calling and text messaging me that I didn’t get to reply to them all because my text message box got full.
“We had a ton of people watching on TV, and my mom and dad were here, my aunt and uncle from Winnipeg came, and it made it absolutely unreal.”
Arpin and his team had car troubles during qualifying, forcing him to start in the middle of the pack on Saturday.
“We changed absolutely everything under the sun there is to change in practice, and whether it was carburetor problems or electrical problems or fuel problems, we weren’t quite sure,” admitted Arpin, who is driving for Eddie Sharp Racing.
“My guys worked their butts off to change absolutely everything, and the problem is you don’t have much time on practice day, so we were kinda further back in the pack than we wanted [to start].”
Then during the race, Arpin was rolling along until Lap 39 when he ran head-on into the aftermath of what had been a multi-car wreck.
“The track is so banked that you are looking out the top of your windshield when you are going through a corner trying to see where you are going,” he explained.
“So when you are going through corner three, you can’t physically see corner four and we rely 100 percent on our spotters.
“As we came to the wreck, there was so much smoke from cars spinning that I could not see a thing,” Arpin recalled. “They just kept telling me to stay high and I was on the brakes as much as I possibly could and as high as I possibly could, but we just got sandwiched between a couple of cars.
“I still don’t know who I hit, to be honest with you, because I couldn’t see him when I did it.”
Despite the hiccup and wasted time in the pits getting repaired, Arpin came back to finish the race in 26th place.
“After the wreck, we were marked in 36th position and we went back out and gained about 11 spots,” Arpin enthused. “The car had no hood, no fenders, but that’s Daytona.
“It’s 100 percent wild card whether you finish or not because there’s so many wrecks and you’re going so fast.”
The 80-lap event was slowed by a series of multi-car wrecks but when the dust finally settled, James Buescher held off Joey Logano to take the checkered flag.
Arpin said his crew is hopeful they’ve worked out some kinks after a weekend mired by unforeseen car troubles.
“We didn’t have the car that we had when we were here [testing], but we think we pinpointed a few issues [in Sunday’s meeting],” he noted. “Some of those things that you don’t know are going to be issues until you get there, but we learned a lot and on race day the car was still pretty good.
“The guys are already back to work at the shop, building me two brand new race cars for the Talladega race [April 24], and we’re going to be 100 percent Toyota from now on, signed a deal [Sunday],” Arpin continued.
“We’re going to have our guns loaded the next time we go racing.”
Next up on the ARCA schedule for Arpin comes at the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 in Salem, Ind. on April 5, so he has a busy couple of months testing cars and adjusting to a short track for that race.
“I think right now I need to get as much seat time as I possibly can on the short track because it’s going to be a whole different ball game,” he remarked. “There’s a lot more driving involved, so I’m looking forward to that and my team is looking forward to it, so it’s going to be exciting.”
In the meantime, Arpin is just enjoying the journey—and couldn’t be more thankful for the support that has come his way from Rainy River District.
“Since we ventured down this way racing, the support from home as been unbelievable,” he stressed. “It’s helped me get to where I’m at today, and it just gives you so much motivation and so much drive to keep it going.”