ENNIS — Primed to make a move in the hunt for his first career world championship, Hector Arana Jr. did not have the result he had hoped for during the most recent race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Despite the disappointing finish, the Pro Stock Motorcycle standout insists there is still plenty of fight left on his team with three races remaining.
Arana lost in the first round at St. Louis, dropping him 115 points behind category leader Eddie Krawiec. It wasn’t the situation Arana had in mind heading to this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, but Arana believes there is still enough time to make things interesting on his Lucas Oil Buell.
"We are ready," Arana Jr. said. "Maybe some people have written us off and that's fine. We plan on showing everyone we're not done fighting just yet. No question we had a bit of bad luck and it was bad timing for that to happen to us in St. Louis, but what we're going to do is move forward. Of course, it's still possible to win the championship, but we're not going to race with that in mind. Nothing to do with winning the championship will change the decisions we make at the racetrack.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 15. It is the fourth event in the NHRA’s six-race playoffs and with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season coming to a close, Arana hopes to have a noticeable impact on how things finish.
Back-to-back semifinal appearances to open the Countdown to the Championship marked a solid start and had Arana third before the early exit in St. Louis. But after three runner-ups in 2017 and no wins since the 2015 season, Arana is looking for more than just solid finishes. He’s anxious to return to the winner’s circle and outlined the approach to get there this weekend in Dallas.
"It sounds cliché but we'll be taking things one round at a time, beginning with the first qualifying session Friday,” said Arana, who has 11 career wins. “We're not going to get in over our heads. We're going to stick with what's worked for us all year. We'll try to be No. 1 qualifier every round and try to win every round we race on Sunday. That's the best way to drag race."
Arana believes the team has figured out the solution to what went wrong in St. Louis, thanks to plenty of hours of work from his dad and PSM teammate, Hector Arana Sr. With that in mind, the first-round loss, Arana Jr.’s first since April, is in his rearview mirror, though plenty of strong challenges remain this weekend. LE Tonglet won in St. Louis to pull within 16 points of Krawiec, while Hines jumped to third and sits 72 points back. Reigning world champion Jerry Savoie is just two points back of Arana, meaning it was important that Arana got everything solved before this weekend.
"We wanted to figure out what changed in St. Louis for us to go from the top of the timing sheets to mid-pack, which ultimately led to our early exit," Arana Jr. said. "Dad put the engines on the dyno when they first got there, saw where we were, and then went to work getting them back where they were before. In the end, the engines are back to 100 percent and ready to race.”
Brown remains in the hunt for his third straight Top Fuel crown, but he must track down red-hot points leader and Texan Steve Torrence, who picked up his eighth win of 2017 in St. Louis.
Hagan looks to make a late run in the Funny Car title race, hoping to track down a teammate, points leader and reigning world champ Ron Capps, who has back-to-back playoff wins.
Skillman has four Pro Stock wins this season but has yet to break through in the Countdown. Greg Anderson grabbed the points lead with a St. Louis win, while Bo Butner sits just three points back.
The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, stick around to see the spectacular Larsen Motorsports jet dragsters sponsored by Florida Tech and Matrix System, the FireStarter jet dragster run by Jerry and Shelly Segal and the Lone Star Lightening jet dragster owned by Tommy Obrien and driven by Tammy Gatlin. Known for their exciting pre-run flame shows and afterburner pops, jet cars are thrust driven vehicles propelled by jet engines.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers with an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-668-6775. Tickets also are available online at www.texasmotorplex.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.