From Rock Bottom to Rising Star Status; Rookie Sean Caisse Ready for ARCA Warriors at Salem SALEM IN (9-9-08) -- Sean Caisse has never raced at Salem Speedway, but he'll probably be as comfortable there as anywhere on the ARCA RE/MAX Series...
From Rock Bottom to Rising Star Status; Rookie Sean Caisse Ready for ARCA Warriors at Salem
SALEM IN (9-9-08) -- Sean Caisse has never raced at Salem Speedway, but he'll probably be as comfortable there as anywhere on the ARCA RE/MAX Series tour.
"The cool part about going to Salem is that it's basically the kind of track I grew up racing on," said the Pelham, New Hampshire rookie who cut his teeth on short-tracks in the northeast.
"The bigger adjustment for me was the bigger tracks; so going to Salem is an opportunity to get back on tracks I'm used to."
But even if the bigger tracks have been all new to Caisse, you'd never know it by performance. In fact, it certainly could be argued that he's been the driver to beat, pretty-much everywhere he's went. Currently that includes both events at Kentucky Speedway where he earned the SIM Factory Pole in one and a career-best runner-up run in the other.
There was also the time at Michigan Int'l Speedway in mid-June where he thrashed the competition with 51 laps-led, and was leading the race in the closing laps when a tire issue brought him down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop.
In just four starts, all on big tracks he's never raced on, Caisse has been a serious victory lane threat.
Caisse comes from the NASCAR Camping World East division where he finished runner-up in points in 2006 and 2007 driving for Andy Santerre Motorsports. Then, a supposed ride with DEI didn't pan out for 2008, which left Caisse without a ride for the new season.
"I needed to move up. So I took a big risk. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out and I was stuck without a ride.
"Instead I went at least four months with no income. I was shopping for sales, cutting coupons. When you hit rock bottom it puts life in a different perspective."
With no immediate prospects, Caisse was preparing to move back home when he dropped in on some old friends at Germain Racing to borrow a trailer to move his furniture. As luck would have it, Caisse walked right into a conversation between Germain Racing General Manager Mike Hillman and former Indy Car Series/NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Shigeaki Hattori. As the story goes, Hillman and Hattori were discussing a possible driver development program for Caisse. And the rest is history.
Hattori hired Caisse soon after.
"I couldn't believe it. I more or less walked into my job interview."
Since then, Caisse became the development driver for the newly-formed Hattori Racing, which has spent a good bit of its time in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. When Caisse isn't driving Hattori's AISIN Toyota in ARCA, he's chasing Hattori's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team learning all he can and working in the shop in between events.
The next race event for Caisse will be the Eddie Gilstrap Motors ARCA Fall Classic at Salem Speedway Saturday night, September 13th. Caisse recently tested at the rough and tumble short-track to try and get ready for the race.
"The test went very well; I was very happy. I watched the spring ARCA race on tape and I could tell it was a pretty wild track. It's definitely a driver's track -- abrasive and bumpy.
"I can see where tire management would come in handy. The car leading at the beginning is probably not going to win. I think the key is to settle in and find your sweet spot -- where the car's good at, keep the fenders on it and go for it in the last 40 or 50 laps.
"Most of the guys I've talked to say the tires wear off after 30, 40 laps, so I think it'll be important to have a fresh set for the end.
"I'm just so excited to get back to short track racing -- what I grew up on. We also have lots of guests coming from Japan. One of the biggest AISIN plants is fairly close to Salem, so we'll have some very important people there to watch the race.
"ARCA racing is a lot of fun; it's a great place to build roots. The goal is to get to that next level, but I'd love to win some ARCA races first -- maybe even run a full season.
"Right now I'm just focused on my next two events -- Salem and Talladega. Salem will be my fifth race in the AISIN Toyota Camry. The team chemistry is really coming along. My crew chief Mike Abner has done a great job. I'm only as good as the team, and this team has worked so hard to make me look good on raceday. Drivers are only as good as the equipment and people around them; and right now, I've got the best of everything. We've had some bad luck -- we should have won some races, but no one on the team is discouraged -- just the opposite really. We've made some statements here, and we're all very encouraged about the possibilities this team offers. We're ready for Salem."
The ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series joins the ARCA RE/MAX Series for the same-day, double-header event. Practice for the Eddie Gilstrap ARCA Fall Classic by Advance Auto Parts is from 1:05 PM to 2:35 PM followed by SIM Factory Pole Qualifying at 4:00 PM. The Advance Auto Parts 50-lap main event for the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series is scheduled to roll off at 5:30 followed by the Eddie Gilstrap Motors ARCA Fall Classic 200-lapper at 7:15.