Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arpin Takes Salem ARCA Slugfest

Steve Arpin outlasted the field and was nearly the last man standing in the ARCA Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 at Salem Speedway today. Craig Goss and ARCA points leader Justin Marks chased Arpin to the checkered flag in a hard fought battle. The win catapulted Arpin into a tie in season points with Marks as the series now heads for an inaugural run at Texas Motor Speedway. Last September's ARCA Salem winner Patrick Sheltra took fourth ahead of Tom Hessert.

Arpin's Venturini Motorsports team could hardly have been more excited about taking the Salem victory. It was Arpin's first career win in ARCA and was marked by some hard driving through numerous restarts in the last fourth of the event due to a rash of crashes suffered by his competitors. On a beautiful spring day in southern Indiana which began with another teen sensation on the pole, 16 year old Max Gresham, Arpin was the class of the field late in the race and bested Craig Goess who also got his best career finish. Gresham ended up sixth ahead of another young gun, Dakoda Armstrong.

As is often the case at bumpy and aging Salem, lots of cars found the unforgiving walls or each other, some on several occasions. Joey Coulter started and ran strong until a couple of late wall contacts ruined his day. Frank Kimmel was a lap down at one point but fought back and was his usual racy self at Salem to snag an eighth place finish. Lady racer Alli Owens looked strong in taking ninth ahead of Ron Cox. My hard luck competitor for the day was the #1 of Nick Igdalsky as every corner on his machine was bent or broken but he kept coming back on the track to record laps. The top 10 somehow managed to stay on the lead lap through 11 caution periods. The race was highly entertaining for the large and enthusiastic crowd and the Salem ownership must be happy with the way the day turned out. It was by far the largest crowd I have seen in years for the spring ARCA race and the chamber of commerce weather surely had a lot to do with the turnout.

ARCA has run at Salem more than any other track in series history and while the track surface has certainly seen better days, Salem Speedway's best days may lie ahead. A new small oval that can also be used for figure-8 features is laid out in stone in the infield, soon to be paved. And a demo run by winged sprinters prior to the ARCA feature surely got the fans excited as another fast and furious event is being added to the Salem calendar. The Kimmel Street Stocks ran a clean and competitive feature before ARCA took the stage, so there was plenty of eye candy for the diehard southern Indiana race fans to ogle. It was my first race to shoot for the season, and it was great to shake the rust off in a place that has become a second home race track for me after Indianapolis. I can't wait to see ARCA again this summer and look forward to seeing the up and coming stars of stock car racing hit the high banks at Salem in the fall. By then, the series title will be winding down and today's young stars will be more seasoned, although it is hard to argue with their race craft after a day like today, where hotshoes Gresham, Armstrong and last year's pole winner Chris Buescher were all highly competitive against much more experienced drivers. That is the great thing about ARCA that I have come to appreciate so much: come one, come all, young and old. Strap in and hang on, the show is about to start!

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