ARCA: From welder to race car driver, Sarah Cornett-Ching continues her building prowess


Sarah Cornett-Ching knows all about building things. Even though she’s only 24 years old, for several years she was an in-demand union welder in her native Canada.

It’s not been unusual for the Summerland, British Columbia native to go deep in the Canadian wilderness and work outside, working her welding craft in temperatures of 30-below.

But if she continues driving the way she has in the ARCA Series, Cornett-Ching may soon be turning in her union card for a steering wheel permanently.

Cornett-Ching has become one of the most-watched drivers in ARCA, and seems to continue to improve with each passing race.

Earlier this month, she finished a career-best eighth in the ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway.

She then followed that up with a ninth-place finish on the road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park. In so doing she became the highest finishing female on a road course – in her first-ever road course race, mind you – in ARCA’s 57-year history.

Currently seventh in ARCA’s standings, Cornett-Ching is looking forward to continue her progress in her next race two weeks from now at Michigan International Speedway.

While she’s taking it race by race, she already has a lofty goal of how she hopes to finish this season.

“I believe we definitely have a shot at a top-five, and we’ll keep pushing for that,” Cornett-Ching said in an ARCA media release.

If she achieves that goal, she’ll set yet another ARCA record as the first female driver to finish in the top-five year-end standings. Former driver Shawna Robinson holds the mark for the highest finishing female driver in a single ARCA season, ending up sixth in 2000.

“I really think we can do it the way our runs have been going,” Cornett-Ching said. “If we can just keep finishing races without tearing up cars, and as long as we finish, we’ve got a realistic shot. The key is finishing everywhere. Tearing up cars is hard on the crew, and puts everything behind.”

Sarah Cornett-Ching showing her welding skills. (Photo courtesy ARCA)

But if she tears up a car, Cornett-Ching has the ability to put it back together with her welding and fabrication skills.

How many other drivers in ARCA or NASCAR can boast the same thing?

Because of limited funding and testing time, Cornett-Ching has taken to some unusual measures to learn about the tracks she will compete upon, including perusing overhead views of those tracks from Google Maps, as well as taking part in online racing.

“I haven’t been to any of these tracks in ARCA,” she said. “They’re all new to me. I’ve never been to Michigan, and I really know nothing about the place.

“I’m not going to get the chance to test, so I’ll get on and do the iRacing (online reality game) thing. But it’s hard to get a real grasp on anything if you haven’t done it. It’s like drafting at Daytona or Talladega. Someone can explain it to me a million times on how to draft, but until you actually experience it, you really have no idea of what’s coming.

“IRacing) does give you some clues … the shape of the track, the lift points. You actually feel the bumps in each track, so it’s good for programming your brain when you’re trying to hit your marks lap after lap. But, I’m finding out that it’s really tough to get a grasp on any track until you’ve actually done it.”

Team owner Tony Blanchard and driver Sarah Cornett-Ching. (Photo courtesy ARCA)

Cornett-Ching now lives just outside Charlotte in Denver, N.C., where team owner (and her crew chief) Tony Blanchard is based.

And instead of welding, she’s racing the full 2015 ARCA schedule with hopes that it leads to even greater racing challenges going forward.

“Sarah is unique in the world of motorsports,” Blanchard said. “There are plenty of good drivers, but Sarah’s ability to race, fabricate components on the race car and stand in front of a camera and represent herself and her team as well as she does is rare.

“I want this year’s racing season to be the start of something big for this young lady. She deserves every bit of the success I know she’s got coming.”

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Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III