Kyle Busch created conversations about a NASCAR driver taking on Nitro Rallycross during the November 13-14 weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, but he was not the only stock car driver that took on the intense style of racing. Steve Arpin made the leap to Rallycross in 2013 and has continued to fight for wins on a consistent basis while embracing a different type of thrill.
The veteran driver has posted 54 starts, three wins, and 13 podiums since moving from stock car racing to Rallycross. He started out with Chip Ganassi Racing but now drives for Loenbro Motorsports with HempFusion as the primary sponsor on his Hyundai i20.
“It’s so cool to me, because again, it’s like I’m up here racing against Travis Pastrana,” Arpin told Heavy during a sitdown interview on November 13. “And HempFusion puts their belief in a guy like me. And SCT [Performance] and Yokohama [Tires] and all these guys.
“It’s so exciting. It’s so cool working with such established brands and nationwide products and having these companies put their belief in someone like me, just chasing my dreams. … It’s one of those things where it’s so easy to brag about a product — and we encourage people to go for that product when I use it every day myself. So that’s what I love about the partners that we have.”
This purpose-built supercar is the one that Arpin put on full display during the Nitro Rallycross weekend in Arizona. He held off Jamaican driver Fraser McConnell during one of the best heat races of the season and then he joined Travis Pastrana in a head-to-head battle bracket that capped off Saturday’s slate of action. He put on these displays while continuing to learn the ins and outs of a car that he only drove for the first time the day before the season-opening trip to Utah.
“So the biggest thing for me has been, it’s just a new everything, and trying to figure it out,” Arpin explained. “But I think it’s one of those things where we have nothing to lose, right? And so we’re just going for it and just having fun. And I guarantee you, we’re the most relaxed, have-fun group in the whole pits. I think that’s why we’re doing pretty good.”
Arpin Achieved Early Success in Stock Car Racing Before Leaving
Prior to a winning career in Rallycross, Arpin tested his skills against some of the best stock car drivers. He ran in the ARCA Menards Series, Camping World Truck Series, and Xfinity Series from 2009 to 2012 before pursuing other forms of racing.
Arpin posted two top-10 finishes in nine Xfinity starts, split between JR Motorsports and Turner Motorsports. He also made five starts in the Truck Series for Turner Motorsports in 2011, winning one pole position and posting a best finish of 12th.
Arpin made the most starts (42) in the ARCA Menards Series and achieved the most success. He won three times and posted 11 top-fives and 21 top-10s while driving for Venturini Motorsports and facing off with such drivers as Grant Enfinger and Justin Marks, who now owns Trackhouse Racing.
While Arpin achieved some success early in NASCAR, there are questions about why he left stock car racing for Rallycross. The answer is as simple as comparing the two styles of racing and the way that they make him feel on a weekly basis.
“I think I’ve been doing this for six years now, and I still get the same s***-eating-grin on my face every time I do a launch,” Arpin said. “Like NASCAR — this is back before they had cell phone rules — I went out to Daytona in ARCA and we’re qualifying at like 190 miles an hour. I videotaped my qualifying lap and qualified I think fourth. So you get so used to going 190-200 miles an hour. But these, you get that same thrill every time.”
Arpin also explained that while racing in NASCAR “is a blast,” the Nitro Rallycross series provides him with the opportunity to recreate the jumps that he did as a child. The veteran driver used to make his toys jump over each other, and now he earns a paycheck doing the same thing in real life.
“I’m just a no-name kid from Canada,” Arpin continued. “I’m sitting here, high-fiving and just excited with Travis Pastrana. And I’ve got Kyle Busch, who’s arguably one of the most talented racecar drivers I’ve ever come in contact with, asking me what I think about the racetrack and everything.”
Will More NASCAR Drivers Follow Arpin & Busch?
Arpin made the leap to Rallycross and achieved success, as did Scott Speed. Sage Karam, a driver with experience in IndyCar and NASCAR, is competing in the Nitro Rallycross Next series and has piled up three consecutive wins. Conor Daly, one of the most popular drivers in IndyCar, also attended the race weekend and received an official invitation from Pastrana.
As Arpin explained, Nitro Rallycross has become a home for drivers across a wide variety of disciplines. There are drivers with experience in motocross, NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula One, and several other styles of racing. If Pastrana’s efforts to recruit other drivers pay off, there will be even more testing out the supercars and the massive jumps in the near future.
Arpin does not know if this trend will continue with even more drivers making the leap on a part-time or full-time basis. What he does know is that the sport of Rallycross had a profound impact on him from the first moment that he climbed into the car.
“Let me put it this way: I called my dad after my first Rallycross race and told him — it was in Brazil of all places,” Arpin said. “I hopped on a plane to Brazil and raced the next day. I called my dad afterwards. It’s like, I haven’t had that much fun racing since it was just him and I when I was living at home and never understood how expensive things were. I was 14-15 years old.”
Years later, Arpin continues to embrace the opportunity before him. He faces off with some of the most talented drivers in the world while jumping the HempFusion Hyundai around purpose-built tracks.