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The 'onus' on Steve Arpin once again in Richmond's Nationwide Series race

By Lee Montgomery
Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for Steve Arpin. Over that span, he went from a relatively unknown ARCA driver to the latest driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

And life sure has changed. For starters, interviews with media have increased. Asked to compare the number of interviews, Arpin instead turned the question around.

"In the last 10 days than the rest of my life combined?" Arpin said with a laugh.

"It’s been pretty cool," Arpin said. "We’ve always been pretty heavily involved with the media with our dirt racing. We really tried to interact with the fans as much as we could, so we did quite a bit. But these last couple weeks have been a whole new level—just a lot more mainstream media. It’s been real exciting."

The biggest change, Arpin said, was his daily schedule since the announcement he would drive for JR Motorsports in at least two Nationwide races, including Friday’s Bubba Burger 250 at Richmond International Raceway.

"The schedule got a whole lot busier," Arpin said. "We’ve still got 24 hours in the day, and we’ve got twice as much we’ve got to get done. But it’s been real exciting. Since we got this deal, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the shop with (crew chief) Tony (Eury) Jr. and all the guys, the guys in the fab shop, the guys on the setup plate, the guys putting seats in the cars—really getting to know everyone at the shop, working with them and learning about the racecars and how they do stuff over here.

"We’ve been concentrating a lot on that and developing a good relationship with the guys, and hopefully that’ll translate into a good performance on the racetrack."

Arpin, 26, has been good at developing relationships with the right people in the sport, but perhaps his biggest boost came from Carl Edwards.

"I never knew it, but I guess he was a pretty big fan of mine," Arpin said. "He always watched me, and he brought a bunch of friends to watch me race at Volusia."

But Edwards and his buddies didn’t get to see Arpin race that night at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., because Arpin had suffered burns in an incident before that night. A radiator hose blew off his dirt late model, spraying Arpin with boiling water. He was severely burned on his hands, thighs and groin and was unable to race for two months.

While recovering in an Orlando-area hospital, Arpin got a call from Edwards.

"I was sitting there in the hospital bed, and my wife was with me," Arpin said. "She answered my phone, and her eyes kind of opened up real wide. She goes, ‘Babe, it’s Carl Edwards on the phone.’ I was like, ‘That’s kinda cool.’ "

The two became fast friends, and Edwards has been a supporter of Arpin’s ever since, putting him in a USAC Silver Crown car as well as introducing the young Canadian to numerous movers and shakers in NASCAR.

"He opens doors for me," Arpin said. "It’s absolutely unbelievable. The man owes me nothing, but yet he still continues to help me out."

Arpin will get to race against Edwards this week at Richmond in what is his final scheduled race in JRM’s No. 7 Chevrolet. (He finished 26th last Sunday at Talladega.) Arpin hopes to get more chances to drive for JRM, even as he competes for the ARCA championship.

"As everyone knows, this is a performance-based industry," Arpin said. "I’ve got to step up to the plate. I’ve got to do my job, get on top of the wheel and produce some results for the team. We all know it’s top-notch equipment, and we’ve got leave the racetrack with results to show what kind of equipment they bring. That puts the onus on me. The ball is in my hands to keep my position over here."

Fast facts
What:
Bubba Burger 250
Where: Richmond International Raceway
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m. Eastern
Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
Track layout: 0.75-mile oval
Race distance: 250 laps/187.5 miles
Qualifying: Friday, 4 p.m. Eastern
2009 winner: Kyle Busch
2009 polesitter: Matt Kenseth
Points leaders: 1. Brad Keselowski, 1,274; 2. Kevin Harvick, 1,264; 3. Kyle Busch, 1,220; 4. Justin Allgaier, 1,171; 5. Carl Edwards, 1,111; 6. Paul Menard, 1,085; 7. Joey Logano, 1,078; 8. Brian Scott, 876; 9. Greg Biffle, 864; 10. Scott Lagasse Jr., 854.