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Hector Arana Took Long Way To Success

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, March 12 2010
Hector Arana begins title defense this weekend.

Hector Arana begins title defense this weekend at the Gatornationals.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Returning home after races was the toughest part for Hector Arana during the dark days of his drag racing career. Returning home race after race, year after year and having to shake his head no when his sons would excitedly ask him if he had brought them home an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle trophy.

“Bad times,” Arana said Friday during a telephone call from the rain-delayed Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

So bad that, yes, he would think about walking away from the sport.

Good thing he didn’t. Because had he, he would have missed out on the good times. The good times which would culminate in Arana being crowned 2009 NHRA champion at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. in November of last year.

OK, great times.

“What I did last year was I had a lot of accomplishments,” Arana said Friday. “I qualified on the pole eight times, I won five national events, I set a national record, I won the championship. To top that off is going to be take a lot more, it’s going to take winning all the events.”

Arana remembers plenty about the zero-event-win times. They dragged on for 18 years. It was during the later stages of those bad times when he considered getting out of the sport.

What kept him from doing that, he said, were the faces of his sons, Adam and Hector.

“I wasn’t going to all the races, you know?,” Arana said. “But I couldn’t quit. I believed I could do it all the people behind me believed I could do it. My kids, as they were growing up they would go, ‘Dad, did you win, did you win?’ I would go to another race and they were, ‘Dad did you win, did you win? They kept asking.’

“I was like, ‘Wow, what am I teaching to my kids if I work so hard and give up?’ “

Then came the race at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio in 2008.

Arana, 49 years old at the time and 18 seasons into his career, got that first NHRA victory and the Wally trophy which came with it that day.
And for the first time, he didn’t have to shake his head no to sons Hector and Adam. Didn’t have to because he won, and didn’t have to because they were there with him that weekend.

“That was the biggest victory for me. My kids were there. Not only did we show ‘em, but my kids were there. We won a national event. And now, there you go. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” Arana said.

Things got even better for Arana last season. Thanks to Lucas Oil mate and Pro Stock driver Larry Morgan, who is also an engine builder, Arana forced increased power from his Buell bike and the victories and the championship ensued.

About the worst thing that happened in 2009 for Arana was that the season ended.

And the waiting began. Waiting to bet back on a bike through the winter. Waiting as the the other three NHRA professional classes took to the track at Ponoma and Phoenix this season.

On Friday, Arana was waiting still. He was standing in the pits in Gainesville signing autographs and watching the stormy skies which had killed all on-track activity on Thursday and were still hanging around Friday morning.

Must be hard, it was suggested. Must be anxious to get back on the bike this weekend, it was suggested.

He stumbled all over himself looking for different ways to say yes when asked that.

“We haven’t been on the bike in a couple months,” Arana said. “Time to get the bugs worked out.”

And get on with a career which 18 years to get started.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, March 12 2010
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