BRAINERD, Minn. — In only his sophomore season as a Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, Hector Arana Jr. is looking like a true championship contender as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to Brainerd International Raceway for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Aug. 16-19.
Despite not having a win this season, his consistent finishes have him ranked third in the points standings, behind the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson duo of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. Arana will try to keep his momentum going into Brainerd, as well as for the start of the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs that begin Sept. 14-16 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.
"I'm just going to try to get ready for the Countdown," Arana said. "I'm going to try to make sure I've got my routine down 100 percent, so when the playoffs come, everything will be like clockwork. It's so important to ride the bike the same way every pass. I don't want there to be any error on my part as the rider when the Countdown starts."
Arana locked in a spot for the Countdown to the Championship following a semifinal appearance at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in late July. Looking back at the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, he advanced to the final round in Brainerd and earned his first appearance in the Countdown. During the six-race stretch of the Countdown, Arana racked up two victories, earning him a runner-up finish in the championship battle and the Auto Club Road to the Future Award as rookie of the year.
"We had a lot of success at the tail end of the season last year," said Arana. "We made the finals in Brainerd and then won three races after that, with two in the Countdown. I think I'm going to be more relaxed because I've been through it before."
To score a victory at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals would mean the world to Arana, his crew chief and father, Hector Arana Sr., and his entire Lucas Oil Buell team. Not only would this be the first win of the season for him, but it would also be a great way to thank his sponsors.
"Charlotte Lucas hands out the trophy to the winners every year at this event. Last year, I was so close to winning," Arana said. "I could tell she wanted to hand me that trophy as I rode past her after I lost. This year, I want an all-Arana final round so we'll guarantee a Lucas Oil rider will win the race and break that Harley 10-in-a-row streak. It would mean the world to me to win it at my sponsor's race and to have Charlotte present the trophy to me."
Not only will Arana have to battle the Harley-Davidson duo of Krawiec and Hines, but he will also have a tough fight with his father and defending event champ LE Tonglet.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Action in Top Fuel is as tight as ever. Spencer Massey leads the points, but his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Brown is right behind him in second, followed by seven-time Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher. The real battle is at the bottom of the top 10, though, as Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican compete for the 10th and final spot in the Countdown with just two races left until the cutoff.
The battle for the 10th spot is just as tough in Funny Car. Fifteen-time world champ John Force sits in ninth, and Bob Tasca is fighting to hang on to the final spot as reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan has climbed to 11th. Tim Wilkerson is also on the outside looking in and within striking distance of the top 10.
Pro Stock action is also close, with a virtual three-way tie for the 10th spot between four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, Ronnie Humphrey and Larry Morgan. The racing action is guaranteed to be as exciting as ever as the NHRA heads to the penultimate race of the regular season in Brainerd.
SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 and 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17, and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
TICKETS: For tickets for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, please call (218) 824-RACE (7223) or log on to www.brainerdraceway.com.
ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Aug. 18, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 9 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 19.
LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 16, and eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m. on Aug. 17 and continue through Aug. 19.
ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.