Bryan Davis Keith · Friday November 11, 2011
There’s no shortage of drivers looking to climb the ladder in the ARCA Racing Series, and Sean Corr is one of those. A dirt regular from New York, Corr and his Empire Racing team recently completed their first full tour of ARCA racing, finishing in the top 10 in points. Frontstretch caught up with Corr in Toledo and learned just how much driver and team have taken from their inaugural campaign.
Bryan Davis Keith, Frontstretch.com Your first full season in ARCA is coming to a close. What’s it like heading into the final race of this season?
Sean Corr: The last couple races we’ve gotten to go out and do some testing at, so it hasn’t been as frightening as the first time we came out here when we had no form of testing under our belts. We’ve done a lot of different experiments with setups and stuff, and I think we’re starting to find some setups [that are going to work for us.]
Keith: You used the word frightening…is that a word you typically use the first time you come to a race track?
Corr: I’d never done a short track before Salem. That was the first asphalt short track I’d ever raced on. I’ve raced all over the dirt in New York, but coming over to the asphalt, I heard plenty of horror stories about the old bullrings. It was enough to scare me the first time. But coming back here, we’re coming back with a really good car. This is the same car we’ve run at every short track since Winchester, and it’s been working really well. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring it back for next year too.
Keith: Talking about the team…you come from a dirt background, this is a whole different ballgame. Talking about both driver and team, what have you all learned this year? What lessons stick out in your mind?
Corr: We’ve learned a lot. We’ve been all over the place, we’ve had a lot of people working on the crew, and I think we’ve settled on the best people.
Keith: What’s been the biggest change you’ve had to make as a dirt driver trying to get these bigger cars to turn on paved surfaces?
Corr: Handling-wise, the cars that I ran back east were northeast pro dirt stocks, and the way those cars react and handle is pretty much very similar to these. They’re not like modifieds where you’re sideways absolutely everywhere. It really wasn’t too big a transition. It is different that when these things snap, they typically go right around. With the dirt cars, you’ve typically got the side bite to hold you. But it wasn’t too big of a change, especially at these short tracks. Even on asphalt, you still get them sideways.
Keith: ARCA’s well known for the diversity of its schedule. Looking back at 2011, what visits stick out in your mind? Any places where you’re thinking “I’m in over my head,” or “this is really cool?”
Corr: The dirt tracks were really cool. You’re wheeling around an old Cup car or Nationwide car, you’re following those cars around, and you’re seeing them on a dirt track. That was a lot of fun, definitely interesting.
Keith: Makes you want to see Cup at Eldora, doesn’t it?
Corr: That would be cool. I definitely think they should put dirt on the schedule. ARCA’s the only one that wants to get dirty anymore.
Keith: Your team has been campaigning Fords all season long. Ford’s made a lot of noise as a manufacturer in NASCAR this year with their new engines, they won the Daytona 500. Has any of that trickled down to benefit your team?
Corr: We’re still running the old engines and not the FR9. The FR9, ARCA has a rev limiter of 8800 RPMs, while the FR9 doesn’t make it’s power until 9200. I heard somebody saying something like they don’t really come alive until 9500 RPM. But we’re still using the old motors because the power band is lower.
Keith: Talking about that in terms of Toledo Speedway, with as much time as you’re spending in the corners here the gear has everyone hitting the rev limiter hard on the straightaways. Does that impact the way you’re able to drive the track at all?
Corr: You want to hear that rev limiter. We actually changed a gear because at first we were just burping it at the end of the backstretch. Now we went up on the gear ratio to hit the limiter on the frontstretch as well. That really helped us pick up a bunch of time.
Keith: Driver development perspective, you’re trying to climb the ladder from the dirt ranks. Why ARCA?
Corr: It’s part of the stepping stones. We’ll see how sponsorship goes, but we’re probably going to run another season of ARCA in 2012.
Keith: Besides dirt and short tracks, you’ve gotten to see some intermediates this year, you’ve gotten to tackle the plate tracks. You’ll be seeing all of those again next year. Looking at yourself as a driver, how would you rate your progress on those larger ovals?
Corr: I wish we ran those bigger tracks every week. I live about an hour and a half from Pocono, and I could run there every week. I really could. I know a lot of drivers don’t like it because of how different the track is, with no two turns that are the same. I don’t know why, but my car works well there and I enjoy driving it. It’s fun having a different track like that. But that, the mile-and-a-halfs and stuff, I definitely wish we did more of them.
Keith: ARCA still lets you test on those larger ovals. As a developing driver, in your eyes how important is it to have that ability to test?
Corr: It’s incredibly important. You always test very timidly, it’s very different from a race. But it’s good to get out there and test, then come back to a track and actually race it. Testing short tracks, any testing we did, it was very different going from running timidly to running with a pack of cars. It’s a good perspective to have.
Keith: Heading into your last race, how would you rate your 2011 season?
Corr: I think it’s been great. We’re in the top 10 in points. As a kid I grew up watching the ARCA Series, and you look back to the top 15 and think wow. You can do top 15 in ARCA , that’s pretty cool. To be in the top 10 is something else. I’d love to be able to go back and find my kid self and tell him that.
Keith: Any moments this year where you’ve thought to yourself “I watched this guy as a kid?”
Corr: Oh yeah. Bobby Gerhart, Frank Kimmel, you can’t help but think that when you pull up alongside them. You think wow, I’m running against Kimmel, Gerhart. It’s something you never think you’d do.
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