As both Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan have been close to banging the door down to try to get the first win in Red Bull Global Rallycross for Chip Ganassi Rallycross, it seemed a question of “when” not “if” it would happen.
Yet the circumstances that led to Arpin’s first win and the team’s in the fourth round of the Red Bull GRC season, Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, were fascinating because it was more luck than outright pace which delivered the triumph.
Arpin was running fourth before a domino effect of incidents took the top three in front of him out in the final laps.
Tanner Foust (Volkswagen Beetle) and Patrik Sandell (Ford Fiesta ST) collided when running 1-2, then Scott Speed’s Volkswagen Beetle was set ablaze with just two laps to go. Speed pulled off the road and was able to get out under his own power.
It left the door open for Arpin, in the No. 00 Jacob Companies Ford for CGR, to get the win in the first of two races during the weekend.
“It was definitely a wild end to the race, but I’ll take it either way!” Arpin told NBC Sports. “I wouldn’t say we earned it… we had a fast car leading up to it, but on the first lap of the main, I felt like a ping-pong ball. It took us a couple laps to get our feet under us but we had such a good car.
“It was one of those deals, where it was an incredibly tough race. But I guess he who makes the least mistakes ends up on top at the end.
“I was looking forward to racing Speed at the end. It was flashbacks to X Games last year. I needed an extra half lap. I seriously wish he didn’t fall out. It would have been an awesome last race.
“To get my first win at Daytona International Speedway is remarkable, being such an iconic track. To couple that with being a small part of what went on in Le Mans this weekend, CGR and Ford over there. That was a piece of motorsports history that was made this weekend.”
The win was huge for Arpin, for Ganassi – who by way of the domino effect got a 1-2 with Deegan in second – and for Jacob, which is a construction, development, management and technology company in a handful of different states. ENEOS and Loenbro primarily are on Arpin’s No. 00 car.
“Jacob Companies on board was huge. They took a leap,” Arpin said. “It was one of those deals where when you put a bunch of good people in the room, they’re just genuine people. Like I said, good people make good things happen. Having them on board plus success the first weekend was huge.
“ENEOS is on for more races this year. The guys upstairs at Ganassi sales department are working to make everything work. We have a lot of demand right now.”
Gracious and humble in triumph, Arpin did note that this has been brewing for quite a long time. Incidentally, weather delays Saturday at Daytona made this race feel a bit like Las Vegas – the 2015 season finale where Arpin and CGR were quick but unlucky not to secure their first wins there.
“We spent a lot of time to study Vegas notes. What did I learn from those standpoints? Unfortunately we didn’t get to race in the wet semifinal. I took a lot of things we learned from Vegas, and it was one of those deals where it was a welcome delay in a sense to finish out what direction to go.”
Arpin told NBC Sports preseason that one of the areas he and the team hoped to improve upon in 2016 was their launches. So far, they’ve delivered on that improvement.
“By far that’s been our biggest improvement,” Arpin said. “It’s short, high-intensity races, and if you’re not getting off the line, you take ourself out of contention. The fact is, we are in the mix right off the bat.
“For example in Sunday’s main we had a really good first launch out of the first corner, and we checked out with Deegan, Foust and I. Then a red flag came out and we had to do it again, and I made a small mistake, almost stalled it, and it killed us. We ran fifth or sixth. The races aren’t long enough, so there’s no room for mistakes.”
Arpin was the first winner for Ganassi this weekend before its huge triumph across the pond with the Ford GT in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The CGR GRC crew watched when, where and how they could.
“We were able to catch it little spurts at a time. It was frantic to get the cars going on Sunday morning! But we were watching on our cellphones, on Twitter, and everyone was keeping us updated.
“It kind of helped take a bit of tension off Sunday morning, because we blew up some driveshafts off the bat. So it kept everyone in a lighter mood.”
Arpin sits second in points, 32 behind Foust, heading into MCAS New River July 2-3 (both races air both dates, 5 p.m. ET, NBC).