The first three races of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series that featured the Pro Stock Motorcycle category were like a dream for Hector Arana Jr. on his Lucas Oil Buell. He won the first three events (Gainesville, Charlotte, Houston) and as the No.1 qualifier at Charlotte and Houston.
The following two events have been tough with first round losses plaguing the team. Arana Jr. retains his points lead in the category and is confident the best is yet to come as the third-year-rider prepares for the seventh annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, July 4-7 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the winners at this event one year ago. The race is televised nationally on ESPN2HD and is the 13th of 24 events in the 2013 Mello Yello Series season.
“I got it all out of my system, and hopefully that won’t happen any more for the rest of the year,” Arana Jr. said. “I had a feeling something like this was going to happen. You do so well, and I just felt like there was no way I was going to doing so amazing. The whole time, I felt like something was going to happen. I’m just glad it happened now, early in the season, instead of in in the Countdown. I think we got it all out of our system and we should be ready to rock and roll.”
By gaining the points lead early in the year, the team, which includes his father, the 2009 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Hector Sr., and his brother Adam, were able to try different setups and prepare for the Countdown to the Championship which begins in mid-September at the NHRA Nationals in Charlotte. They are also reassured that both losses were issues that can be pinpointed and put behind them.
“Englishtown, the motor blew up, so I went into first round with a different engine, and the whole setup was off. That hurt a lot,” he continued. “In Epping, I don’t know if I wanted to win so bad or what, but my lights were off real bad. I was hitting the Christmas Tree hard and practicing really hard with my crew chief, and I guess I was too ready. I was .005 red.”
In his 2011 rookie season, Arana Jr. recorded his career first No. 1 qualifying position at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park and the following year he raced to a runner-up finish. He is ready to return and this time take home a coveted NHRA Wally from the event.
“There is unfinished business,” he said. “It seems like so far this year I’ve been able to close up my unfinished business at other events, so I’m really looking forward to this race. Awesome fans, nice facility, $1 ice cream, first No. 1, final round last year, so I’m excited. We run good in the heat, and it’s going to be a hot track there, so I’m ready for it.”
If Arana Jr. is to seal the deal and race to the winner’s circle Sunday, he will have to outlast a field of 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle racers that can easily win the event. John Hall recorded his first NHRA Mello Yello Series victory in Epping, N.H. recently and Michael Ray in his sophomore season recorded his second career win at Houston.
“In my opinion, I think our class is the most competitive out of the four pro NHRA categories,” Arana Jr. continued. “If you look at Pro Stock Motorcycle and how tight the qualifying fields have been, we’ve been having record fast fields. I ran 6.90 and qualified eighth in Epping. That is amazing. We’ve got new guys going to the finals, first-time winners. My brother’s [Adam] a rookie, and he went to the finals in Epping. John Hall is doing an awesome job, too. It’s very exciting. I think the fans are loving it. I’m loving it.”
The Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals has quickly become a bucket list event for Mello Yello Drag Racing Series fans. The Bill Bader-owned facility has long been known as one of the most fan-friendly venues in all of entertainment. Following qualifying on Friday night the fireworks display rivals any that you will see over the 4th of July weekend. And while the fans are in awe of the display, so are the racers.
“I’ve definitely been able to watch it every time with Friday night lights with NHRA,” Arana Jr. said. “When Funny Car or Top Fuel is running, we are always in the stands, making sure we are there to watch those amazing fireworks.”
Those in attendance at the event will watch the continuation of the tight points battle in Top Fuel with Shawn Langdon leading the standings and seven-time champ Tony Schumacher lurking in second. Massey, Antron Brown, Bob Vandergriff and Steve Torrence have all won events this season and will be looking to add another win to the ledger.
In Funny Car, racers will continue their battle for the top points position, which multiple drivers — Matt Hagan, Johnny Gray, Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon — have occupied this season. John Force and his daughter Courtney have both won races, and they and Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham and 2012 world champion Jack Beckman will be searching for the win.
Pro Stock is led by 2009 world champion Mike Edwards who with three wins is atop the standing in the Factory-Hot Rod category. 2012 world champion Allen Johnson, four-time champion Jeg Coughlin and Shane Gray will all look to take home the win at the event.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers because every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them to see firsthand the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds. While visiting the pits, fans won’t want to miss the interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway.
The teams in several categories of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also will thrill the crowds with intense side-by-side competition, and drivers in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will be competing in their sixth event of the 2013 season.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 5, and will continue Saturday, July 6, at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, July 7.
For tickets, call Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, (419) 668-5555. Tickets also are available online at www.summitmotorsportspark.com.
• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET) Saturday, July 6, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday, July 7.
• ON THE WEB: Get instant results, access to photos, video and audio clips and the latest news updates from every NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.NHRA.com.