In a Bleacher Report Exclusive Interview, I sat down with Eddie Sharpe Racing rookie driver Steve Arpin, who is part of the ARCA Re/Max Series.
David Phillips: Let's start off with the basics. What is your biggest accomplishment to date and also your biggest failure or letdown?
Steve Arpin: The thing that stands out most in my mind and is definitely at the top
of my list for accomplishments is the the UMP Dirtcar Winter Nationals at Volusia County Speedway in 2007.
We spent all winter long preparing for that week, and it paid off in spades. We won seven out of nine events that week. It was incredible! We met a lot of people and many of the people we met that week have helped open doors for us to give us the opportunity to do what we are doing today.
Kenny Wallace was there that week and we were racing hard every night. Him, my wife Trina, and I have become great friends since then and he has been an incredible help with both opportunity and advice through the past couple years.
Our biggest letdown so far, and hopefully of my entire career, is right back to Florida again. Last year at the same race, we were even more prepared to try and defend our 2007 championship and try to repeat what we did the year before. We started off the trip with two wins and a second in Brunswick, Ga.
We had a very fast race car. We ran our first heat race the opening night and lost a motor. We were able to limp the car to the finish, so we still qualified for the main event. Between races, my crew and I were changing the motor, I was leaning over the car taking off the carburetor, and the upper radiator hose blew off.
The water that sprayed me was over 250 degrees and that put my out for almost two months. The burns weren’t the bad part of the deal. The bad part was that we had such a good car and had a shot at winning the 2008 championship as well.
David Phillips: What was your biggest learning curve from dirt to asphalt?
Steve Arpin: I know a lot about how things work and why a car does what it does getting around a race track. That has helped me to adjust pretty quickly to all of the different cars that I’ve been driving.
Last year, we raced dirt modifieds, dirt late model, USAC Silver Crown, CRA Late Model, and did some testing in a few ARCA and Camping World Cars. There are going to be some things to adjust to, but at the end of the day they are all race cars that want to go as fast as possible.
I think the biggest learning curve...maybe not so much a learning curve, but the thing that will take the most time to master...is learning the air and how to really use it to my advantage. I have been doing my homework and reading as much as I can on it, but to really master it, it is just going to take laps.
David Phillips: How does it feel to be on a team with all rookie teammates, including yourself?
Steve Arpin: Well, we are not all rookies. Just Lofton is returning to ESR for his second season in the ARCA Re/Max Series. I think we are going to have a very strong team this year. All four of us are all getting along great and talking openly with each other on what our cars are doing, and also things we are doing that are helping us from a driving stand point.
The three of us are rookies in the ARCA Re/Max Series, but we all have an extremely diversified background, so we each have different types of feedback to offer each other to help adapt to each new track and situation as quickly as possible.
The entire crew at ESR, especially my crew chief, Wayne Carroll, and my car chief, Jonathan Davis, have been great as far as working with me and helping teach me as many lessons the easy way so I don’t have to learn them the hard way.
David Phillips: Driving for ESR, do you feel like you have big shoes to fill after they have sent two rookies to the Sprint Cup after only one season with ESR?
Steve Arpin: I am not looking at it as big shoes to fill. Both Michael McDowell and Scott Speed are great race car drivers. I look at it as more of an honor to be in a position that has created such great opportunities for drivers in the past.
We are working very hard right now to secure sponsorship or private investors to compete in the entire ARCA Re/Max Series schedule and be the first driver to bring Eddie Sharp and the entire team to their first championship.
I feel I am completely capable to race in the Cup Series and I am going to make it there, so as big as the shoes get, I’m just going to have to make my feet bigger to keep on filling them.
David Phillips: What is a normal day in the life of Steve Arpin like?
Steve Arpin: A normal day in my life. Well, I wake up every morning to my incredible wife, Trina, so, every day is a good day right from the get-go! My life revolves around racing 100 percent.
A normal day consists of lots of talking on the phone, trying to open as many doors as possible to keep my asphalt career going, trying to help out all of our
customers that have our dirt-modified cars that we sell at our business back in Minnesota.
If we are not driving down the road from one race to another, we are back at the shop working on my dirt cars or building cars for customers, trying to develop them as much as we can so we can stay up front in the modified world. Lately, since we have signed with ESR, we have been working at the shop in Denver, North Carolina on the ARCA cars and spending a lot of time getting to know the team.
I like to know exactly what is under me while I am on the race track so I can really give my crew chief effective and accurate feedback. So, my wife and I now live in North Carolina and my dirt program has moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas to our new chassis builder, Taylor Chassis.
We have teamed up with Jeff Taylor Motorsports for our dirt program and are now building our own chassis. So we are constantly working back and forth with them trying to develop our new cars into the best modified on the market.
Lately, since I got married, we usually spend some time in Wal-Mart or Home Depot if we get a day off and then curl up and watch the Discovery Channel at night.
David Phillips: What are your chances of adding 2009 SunTrust Rookie of the Year to your accomplishments?
Steve Arpin: I don’t think being the 2009 SunTrust Rookie of the Year is out of the question whatsoever. The more time I spend with my team at ESR, the more time I spend with Eddie Sharp himself, and the more testing we do, I honestly believe that we have the absolutely perfect combination put together to accomplish both Rookie of the Year honors.
If we are smart and play our cards right, a championship is not out the question either.
Right now, we have 13 out of 22 races secured, and we are going to continue our marketing efforts and secure the final nine to make reaching these goals possible.
David Phillips: What do you need to do this season to consider it a successful campaign?
Steve Arpin: To make this a successful season for me, I have to take complete advantage of the situation and learn and develop myself so I can be at the level I need to be at to move up sometime ... and be ready for 2010.
I am new to asphalt racing, and although we are adapting to this type of car incredibly quick, we still need some time to learn the things that nothing but seat time can offer. My goals for this year are to learn as much as I can each and every time I am on the track so I can put myself in the position to fill the shoes of my predecessors and move up as quickly as possible.
David Phillips: Any plans to run any NASCAR races?
Steve Arpin: I have all the plans in the world to run a whole lot of NASCAR races. That’s what this season is for, and like I said before, I am going to take advantage of every lap I make this season to develop myself enough to be able to add some NASCAR races to our schedule, and maybe even some truck races this coming season.
David Phillips: What do you bring to ARCA that neither the fans nor the teams have seen before?
Steve Arpin: I feel like I can be a great asset to any team for more than just a
driver. I have lots of chassis knowledge and the ability to understand the physics of the race car. This allows me to be heavily involved in setting up the race car, as the more I understand what is actually happening under the car, I can give more in-depth input to
Wayne, my crew chief, for him to make the best decisions on tuning the chassis.
I have a level of determination that I don’t think can be matched. Racing is all I have ever done, and each day I love what I do more and more, and I am determined to make it to the Cup series and win a Cup championship.
We also have raced our dirt car all over the United States and Canada, and throughout these travels we have developed an incredible fan base that is supporting us now more than ever in this transition into asphalt racing.
My wife is also very involved with the race program. She and I both have a very outgoing personalities, so it’s easy for both of us to interact with our crew and keep the morale up through the good times and the bad. We can also interact with the fans and make them feel perfectly comfortable approaching the both of us at any time.
David Phillips: Will we see Steve Arpin in Victory Lane this season?
Steve Arpin: Definitely. I have an awesome team, top-notch equipment, the best crew chief in the pits, and I have the ability to put us in victory lane this year, maybe as soon as Daytona.
David Phillips: Favorite Sprint Cup driver?
Steve Arpin: Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are both my favorite drivers. Carl has been an incredible help to Trina and I this past year. He is also a huge inspiration with his history and how he has got to the level he is at today.
The story is incredible. He is so determined and so focused at what he does and that is why he is going to be one of NASCAR’s all time greatest drivers. You watch, this year the cup will be his.
Tony Stewart is just awesome. I love his attitude and how he is at the front in everything he drives, whether he has ever been in them before or not. He is just a real racer.
David Phillips: The one person you've never met that you would like to?
Steve Arpin: Well, my whole life I’d always wanted to meet Jack Roush, but lately I have been lucky enough to have been able to spend some time with him. Today, I would have to say I would love to meet Tony Stewart.
David Phillips: Favorite sport besides racing?
Steve Arpin: My favorite sport, besides racing, would have to be hockey. I used to play a lot of hockey as a kid. My coach made me choose between racing and hockey, and I think he was kind of shocked because that was the last time I was on skates.
I still really enjoy watching hockey and am actually going to start playing a little hockey again in Charlotte this year.
David Phillips: Favorite teams?
Steve Arpin: I would have to say that my favorite team is the Montreal Canadiens. Both because they are Canadian and I have got to know Mr. George Gillett (the owner) lately and he has got to be one of the coolest guys I know.
David Phillips: Any hobbies you would like to share?
Steve Arpin: It’s kind of a new thing for me, but I am really enjoying it. My wife is a real outdoors girl and loves hiking. When we get some spare time, we like to go out and find some trails or national parks and go touring through the woods (we call the woods the bush in Canada, and it drives Trina nuts, so she is trying to teach me "correct English").
We also like to spend a little time on the lake when we can, but really we don’t do much that doesn’t involve a race car.
David Phillips: Favorite saying or quote?
Steve Arpin: My favorite saying isn’t very original, just one that keep the motivation going when things get tough. The words that I have always lived by are, "The higher the hurdles get, the higher I have to jump." Getting to the top in any sport, you are always going to run into road blocks or hurdles. If you want it bad enough, you will never let them get you down. Just jump over them, no matter how high they get.
David Phillips: Predict the Cup champ this year?
Steve Arpin: I don’t have to predict. It’s Carl Edwards, hands down.
David Phillips: What would you like for your fans to know that they already don't?
Steve Arpin: Growing up, I have raced everything I could get my hands on. I started racing go-karts, then personal watercrafts, and even bathtub boats. I raced ice ovals snowmobiles professionally for the Polaris Factory and won six world championships at the Eagle River World Championships.
We are also very involved in a dirt car chassis school and driving school. We do the Racewise Chassis School with Mark Bush in Rochester, Minnesota every March. This will be our third year doing the school and we have over 130 students each year.
We also help with the Brooks/Shaw Driving School, which is a one-day classroom and one day on track school. My wife and I are also now getting very involved with the Victory Junction Gang Camp and are absolutely amazed the things they do for the kids and the activities they have there for them. It’s the most rewarding feeling imaginable seeing the smile on the kids' faces while they are there.
David Phillips: Anything else you'd like to share?
Steve Arpin: This is an incredible opportunity that Trina and I have this season and it would not be possible without the support of the people who truly believe in me. We would like to thank everyone for their support. We would like to personally thank Jeff Taylor Motorsports, the Nelson family, my parents Chuck and Gayle Arpin, Mesilla Valley Transportation, Lone Bro Enterprises, Deer Creek Speedway, and K2 Agriculture.