Racing community comes to the rescue
Young racer from Grand Meadow recovering from burns
By Donny Henn
Steve Arpin was already the hottest up-and-coming driver in the country in dirt-track car racing.
Then, in early February, the young racer from Grand Meadow really got burned.
Arpin, 24, was burned over nearly half of his body by scalding water in a pit row accident at a track in Florida on Feb. 5.
"I was leaning over the motor, taking off the carburetor, and the radiator hose blew," explained Arpin, who was at Volusia Speedway Park in Barbersville, near Daytona.
Arpin was wearing a fire suit but it wasn’t water-resistant, and he was soaked with 275-degree coolant.
"It got inside my suit and I started running around and screaming like a little girl," he said.
Arpin suffered second-degree burns to his left hand and the left side of his torso, including his groin area and most of his thigh. He spent the next week in the burn unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
The hospitalization would’ve been longer if Trina, Steve’s wife of just four months, hadn’t learned how to meticulously clean and dress his wounds, and if the racing community hadn’t rallied in support.
NASCAR stars to rescue
It wasn’t just fellow dirt-track racers who came to Arpin’s aid, with donations of cash and other support.
Some of the biggest names in NASCAR also lent a generous hand with getting Arpin and his Larry Shaw-built cars and equipment back home to Minnesota.
The high risk of infection prevented Arpin from traveling commercially.
So NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, who also still races modifieds and has raced against Arpin, called a few friends.
Wallace, Ken Shrader, Don Schoenfeld, Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte all pitched in to fly Arpin home aboard Labonte’s private jet.
Edwards, who’s currently the hottest driver in the Sprint Cup series, also took a day from his busy schedule to race Arpin’s car at an event in Florida while Arpin was still hospitalized.
Edwards didn’t do well, failing to qualify for the feature. But it was the thought that counted,
"We had a lot of sponsors on board and we wanted to get them the exposure they deserved.
Carl understood that and wanted to help. "
Arpin is a transplant from St. Frances, Ontario, where as a teen he gained fame as an oval track snowmobile racing champion.
Arpin was 17 when he began racing professionally for Polaris. A 2002 crash in which he broke his back led him to trace the racing grooves of his dad, Chuck, by racing modified cars around dirt ovals.
Although an accident ended his snowmobile racing career, Arpin isn’t about to let his recent scalding derail his car racing progress.
Making what his doctors consider a remarkable recovery, Arpin returned to racing just seven weeks after the accident. He took sixth place in a feature race at Enid, Ok., on March 30.
Steve and Trina, along with pit hand Brent Kisro, will criss-cross the country from now until November, racing in 80 to 100 shows.
Arpin won 18 feature races last year, 17 the year before. The idea is to keep winning, and catch a ride on an asphalt track with a NASCAR team.
"That’s what my aim is," he said. "Racing is what I do; nothing is going to change that."