April 27, 2010
CATCHING UP WITH STEVE ARPIN
How about that Steve
You know, that
fresh-faced “All American” kid from
who won his first dirt mod track championship at age 15.
We did a TEAROFF on Steve
right after he had turned in his very first laps at Daytona in
January a year ago.
“Holy crap,” he sang out. “I’ve finally
We caught up with Steve
again last week.
He’d had a helluva two-week adventure.
He won the ARCA show
and dusted them off again in spectacular fashion a week later in
He was sitting in a
motorhome in the infield of
spending hours watching Dale Junior tapes of restrictor plate races,
over and over again.
It was immediately clear
that a whole lot has happened to Steve in the last couple of years
and that a whole lot of people have been watching.
It was also clear that this has been no
cake walk, and, along the way, the kid with the 10-gigawatt smile
has become one mature young man.
Here’s what he had to say:
So, where’s your head just now, Steve?
I’m in a pretty good spot right
now, and sometimes I get to thinking that from the outside this must
look like it’s been kinda easy.
Sure, I do have a family that has been
willing to give everything so I could go race and I have the world’s
greatest and most supportive wife.
But I work really hard at this, and it
HAS been tough.
One thorough test of my confidence.”
far, since you’ve left dirt mods, you’ve been in pavement late
models, Silver Crown cars, road races, ARCA short track, and ARCA
Where was the biggest driving
Trina and I had just gotten down to
Mooresville, trying to do some networking, completely flat broke.
We were staying at
Carl Edwards’ house and late one afternoon he called from Richmond
and asked if I had ever driven a USAC pavement car.
I asked if he was kidding – I’d never
even driven pavement.
He said that’s fine – come on up here
to run my Silver Crown car TOMORROW!
So, off we went, right on the spot.
I wouldn’t say it was uncomfortable,
but that kind of unfamiliar chassis, that size of track, and that
kind of power all sure got my attention.
But both Carl and
Chris Santucci who campaigns the car were wonderful and something
went right there and at Phoenix
‘cause I got Rookie of the Year.”
Steve listens to Carl Edwards and Jack Roush
USAC event. (Arpin Collection)
How did it go with ARCA when
you got started last year?
Actually, I had a really slow start.
I struggled with a lot of habits I
brought with me from the dirt.
I didn’t even know how to use my feet
on a paved track.
I was beginning to get down on myself
and then we hooked up with Billy Venturini.
What a match!
We had a legitimate shot of winning
Pocono in August, our first race together.
That was a firecracker for me.
There is so much chit chat in racing
these days about how helpful dirt experience can be in superspeedway
Wasn’t your past an
Oh, of course, overall
it is a huge plus.
Take car control.
On dirt you just have
to get that focused feel.
If you’re in a 30-lap
dirt feature on Saturday night, you’ve got 30 laps.
When the green flag
drops, the seconds are clicking and you’ve gotta be up on that
You must learn to race
while looking out the windshield a couple of laps ahead so that when
you get there you know intuitively what the other cars are going to
Without taking time to
think about it, you need to watch the surface and how the other cars
are reacting to it, while seeking your own advantage.
Maybe other forms of
racing don’t offer this concentration and intensity.
You’ve been with Billy Venturini for a
couple of months last year and so far this season, but it seems that
in the last few weeks you’ve really clicked.
It might seem
sudden, but it’s process.
I can’t tell you how
attentive Billy has been to building my confidence over time.
He told me I have the
Just that statement
means so much.
I’ve seen him everyday
and he has coached me endlessly.
We’ve reviewed every
video, dissecting every lap of every race.
And the more
comfortable he has made me, the harder I have been trying.
But there are always
Over the course of the
winter, I just plain wasn’t feeling well.
I lost 24 pounds.
Just found out that,
of all things, I have developed major food allergies.
Now that I am better,
I am REALLY on the case.
Gym plus 5 miles of
running every day.
I should say that I
set out to do 5 miles every day.
Truth is I am the
A.D.D. champion and I usually come back early because my mind gets
to buzzing about all the things I have to do when I am through.
It’s one of those
old mid-West high banked places.
Don’t know what there
is about it, but I just love it – and I did last year, too. I’ve
walked it at least six or seven times and feel I have a relationship
It’s the first time I
could read an asphalt track – I could see the grooves and how I
I knew how to use the
steering wheel and my feet. I ran it almost like dirt.
After we won it, my
Dad came up to me and said, “My race driver is coming back!”
he hugged me again and said, “My race car driver IS back.”
So much comes down to
You were always monkeying with your dirt cars
and hiring yourself out to do setups for other racers.
Do you still pick up
Believe me, I am in the shop every
single available minute.
But I’m really concentrating on my role
as a driver.
Billy has taught me that.
My contribution needs to be on quality
input rather than on the actual change to the car.
This is a very difficult transition for
a Saturday- night racer used to doing everything.
At this level you need to settle down
and play your own role exceptionally well.
This is one of the hardest things I’ve
had to do.
When we started, my instinct was to
jump out of the car, grab some tools, and slide under it.
Now I stay in the car while they are
doing things and I concentrate on how I might change my driving:
how I can use the track better, how I
can use the air off other cars, how I can adjust my line.
Kevin Harvick listens to Steve. (Arpin Collection)
You sure have had the announcements along with
the wins these last couple of weeks.
You’ve got Mike’s
Hard Lemonade on the side of your ARCA car now, and word is out
everywhere that you will also be driving for JR Motorsports in the
Nationwide race here at Talladega.
Wow. What will your confidence level be
like on the parade lap for that race?
In my heart, I
knew I could win at Salem
and in Texas.
I know I can win Nationwide races, but
I know it will take time.
I keep talking about how much
commitment you have to put into this.
It’s so easy to focus and be confident
when you are doing well, but, when you are struggling and learning,
it can be hard.
Nationwide is near the very, very top.
You need to be a real champion to get
It won’t be all roses.
In the meantime, would
you care to tell me how many Mike’s Hard Lemonades you and Trina had
after the race in
© 2010 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181