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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Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”