(TOLEDO, Ohio - May 31, 2012) - Steve Arpin has just one start in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards since the conclusion of the 2010 season, when he led the series with three wins and turned his ARCA success into a NASCAR opportunity under owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. Now, ARCA's first trip to Minnesota has the Fort Frances, Ont. native back in the hunt for another ARCA victory.
Arpin, whose hometown sits just across the United States/Canada border from International Falls, Minn., will drive the No. 66 Venturini Motorsports entry in Saturday's Akona 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Elko Speedway. His ARCA return brings him back to the team for which he has registered three wins, 10 top-fives, and 16 top-10s in 28 ARCA starts after moving from Eddie Sharp Racing in 2009.
Despite an ARCA layoff since last year's season opener, the 28-year-old has stayed busy. He has made two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts this year for Turner Motorsports, and earned a top-10 at Texas Motor Speedway last month. Last season, he made five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts for Turner.
For this weekend, though, Arpin's focus is on Elko Speedway and becoming the national stock car's tour first winner in Minnesota.
"It's right in my backyard," Arpin said. "I started my racing career at Emo Speedway (in Ontario), which is about six hours north of there and as I progressed through the ranks, we raced near there every weekend. I used to race at Deer Creek Speedway near Rochester and over in Princeton, and it's kind of where my roots are in racing. I've developed so many friends and have family in that area, and there are a ton of people from Canada and the Rochester area coming out."
In 2010, his second full ARCA season, Arpin displayed his ability to win on nearly any type of track. He won back-to-back races at the high-banked, 0.555-mile Salem (Ind.) Speedway and 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, and later won on the dirt mile in DuQuoin, Ill. Despite the sense that Elko Speedway is local to Arpin, he'll have to rely more on his ability to adapt than on regional familiarity.
"I've never seen it," Arpin said of Elko's 3/8-mile oval, laughing. "I've never seen it, never been there before. I know they have covered it in dirt the last couple years and run a bunch of dirt races on it, but I've never done any racing on it at all."
While the track is an unknown for Arpin - as is the case for many of the more than 30 drivers entered for Saturday's race - one known commodity is the driver's relationship with Venturini Motorsports, a team in its 30th year of ARCA competition.
"Bill, Billy, Cathy, everyone over at Venturini, they've been so good to me over the years," Arpin said. "We've done so many great things together. We've really kept a close relationship even since I've moved on in my career. If I want to have an opportunity to win, I'm in the right car."
In addition to Saturday's race at Elko, Arpin will drive for Venturini Motorsports at the Illinois State Fairgrounds and DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds later this season.
The Akona 200 will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, with two 45-minute practices scheduled for 2 and 3:15, and Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell following at 5. Each driver in the starting field will participate in an on-track autograph session from 6:30 to 7:30, just before the green flag. All times are Central.
Elko Speedway is located at 26350 France Avenue in Elko New Market. ARCARacing.com will feature live streaming audio coverage of the 8 p.m. race, which will be the sixth in ARCA's 60th Anniversary Season.