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History-Making Arana Jr. Zeros In On First Win Of Season

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 6 2018

Biker Hector Arana Jr. will attempt to end a long winless streak from the pole position Sunday in Atlanta. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

With an NHRA milestone etched next to his name, Hector Arana Jr. is anxious to extend his family’s Pro Stock Motorcycle legacy into the win column.

Arana Jr. knocked down what arguably was the last major barrier in professional drag racing earlier this season when he became the first PSM rider to exceed 200 mph over the traditional quarter-mile. Arana Jr.’s lap of 6.937-seconds at 200.23 mph was recorded during the second qualifying session of the 49th annual Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway in the class season-opener on March 15.

Hector Jr. became the charter member of the DENSO Spark Plugs 200 MPH Club and earned a $10,000 bonus. The pass also eclipsed his record of 199.88 mph set at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., in 2015.

“What’s really awesome is (going 200 mph) was something that we’ve been working towards for many years,” said Arana Jr., a 29-year-old resident of East Northport, N.Y. “Then when it happened, it was something that was out of the blue. The run before we went 196, so when we went 200 it was a total surprise. That just added to the excitement.

“We’ve had great feedback and response from fans, and it feels good to have people coming up and congratulating you. It’s definitely a good feeling and it keeps your confidence up.”

Still looking for his first round-win of 2018 and first event victory since 2015, Arana Jr. qualified on-pole Saturday as time trials concluded for the 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

“We know we have fast motorcycles,” said Arana Jr., whose lap of 6.806-seconds at 198.76 mph during Saturday’s Round 3 secured his first pole of the season and 20th of his career. “We’ve been making great horsepower but have been struggling leaving the starting line. Come Q3 though, it (the bike) was dialed- in and the numbers showed.”

Arana Jr. will line up his EBR opposite Ryan Oehler’s Buell when eliminations begin Sunday morning at the facility in Commerce, Ga. FOX Sports 1’s coverage will begin with “NHRA Today” at 11:30 a.m. (EDT), with a three-hour finals program beginning at 6 p.m.

“We want to get back out there and make amends,” said Arana Jr., who has 11 career wins. “We know the things we need to work on and we’re excited to regroup and show we’ll be on top. We definitely have good bikes with a lot of horsepower, so it’s about applying that power to the starting line.”

The elder Arana _ the 2009 NHRA world champion _ qualified second, marking the first time since 2012 that son and father will start in the first and second positions. Sunday’s race is the third of 16 Pro Stock Bike national events, giving Arana Jr. ample time to improve upon his current 13th-place position in the point standings.

“Now’s the time where we have to start doing well and start figuring things out,” said Arana Jr., who replaced two-time world champion Matt Smith and his Victory Magnum atop the qualifying ladder. “We have fast bikes, but the goal is consistency to make a fast pass every time. Dad learned a lot in testing, and hopefully we’ll be able to apply that going forward and capitalize.”

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) also emerged as No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the seventh of 24 events on the 2018 schedule.

Millican’s 1,000-foot qualifying pass of 3.758-seconds at 331.12 mph stood strong for the No. 1 spot in Top Fuel. The Tennessee resident earned his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 13th of his career.

“We held in there and got the green hat (as pole-winner),” said Millican, who will race Audrey Worm in Round 1. “We’re definitely looking for the yellow hat tomorrow. We went out this morning and made a nice solid run and Brittany (Force) was knocking on the door of taking the No. 1 spot away.” 

Force, the reigning world champion from John Force Racing, qualified second at 3.760-seconds and 324.28 mph in her Monster Energy dragster, while point-leader Steve Torrence is third.

Courtney Force wheeled her Chevrolet Camaro SS to a 1,000-foot pass of 3.932-seconds at 324.51 mph during the final round of Funny Car qualifying to secure her fourth pole of the season and second consecutive at the track.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to improve after (Friday),” Courtney said. “Coming out today we had some cloud cover which was great and laid down some numbers. I’m proud of my team and crew chiefs, Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, for laying it down on that last run.”

Force will face Jeff Diehl and his Toyota Solara in Round 1 of eliminations. JFR teammate Robert Hight, the two-time/reigning world champ, locked-in the No. 2 spot at 3.952-seconds and 327.59 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Camaro. Tommy Johnson Jr. is seeded third in his Dodge Charger R/T fielded by Don Schumacher Racing.

Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field via his quarter-mile pass of 6.586-seconds at 209.69 mph in his red Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro SS from Friday. Anderson is chasing his first victory of the season and 91st of his career.

“I still have a very fast and very consistent race car,” Anderson said. “Glad to be No. 1 to set the field for tomorrow. I desperately need a good race day, but I feel positive that we’ve learned a lot about the racetrack over the weekend. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Anderson will race Val Smeland in Round 1. Drew Skillman powered his Ray Skillman Camaro to the No. 2 spot at 6.591-seconds and 209.52 mph and will face Wally Stroupe.

“The racetrack is gaining every run,” said Anderson, who is celebrating his 20th season in the “Factory Hot Rod” category. “I didn’t run as fast as we could have on that last run (6.605/209.75) because we backed her down thinking the track wasn’t as good _ but it was. We did get some good data and we have a very fast, very consistent race car. There are a lot of fast cars out here, and thousandths (of a second) make the difference between No. 1 and No. 8. It’s just crazy.”

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations at the 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals Powered by Mello Yello at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh of 24 events in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based upon results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

Top Fuel _ 1. Clay Millican, 3.758-seconds, 331.12 mph vs. 16. Audrey Worm, 6.070, 99.88; 2. Brittany Force, 3.760, 324.28 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 4.880, 152.50; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.787, 327.74 vs. 14. Terry Haddock, 4.218, 243.19; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.788, 314.83 vs. 13. Pat Dakin, 3.975, 287.35; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.794, 327.82 vs. 12. Bill Litton, 3.901, 311.92; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.800, 323.81 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.870, 306.88; 7. Antron Brown, 3.802, 325.61 vs. 10. Blake Alexander, 3.842, 326.08; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.818, 320.28 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.830, 323.89.

Funny Car _ 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.932, 324.51 vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.857, 171.75; 2. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.952, 327.59 vs. 15. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.606, 181.03; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.968, 319.90 vs. 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.155, 291.45; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.969, 316.38 vs. 13. John Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.154, 259.46; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.979, 324.67 vs. 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.107, 306.60; 6. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.001, 316.15 vs. 11. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.054, 316.82; 7. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.019, 315.93 vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.038, 318.09; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.029, 311.70 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.032, 317.42.

Pro Stock _ 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.586, 210.11 vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 7.222, 146.51; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.591, 209.62 vs. 15. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.834, 202.91; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.594, 209.14 vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.725, 205.85; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.600, 209.39 vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr., Camaro, 6.721, 205.66; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.601, 209.46 vs. 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.680, 207.50; 6. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.606, 209.07 vs. 11. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.651, 208.36; 7. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.608, 208.42 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.628, 209.30; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.611, 209.65 vs. 9. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.617, 209.33.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Hector Arana Jr., EBR, 6.806, 198.76 vs. 16. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.958, 193.18; 2. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.850, 196.62 vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.956, 191.97; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.864, 195.96 vs. 14. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.953, 192.06; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.873, 195.05 vs. 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.949, 192.47; 5. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.877, 196.47 vs. 12. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.945, 191.13; 6. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.882, 196.13 vs. 11. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.935, 193.85; 7. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.889, 193.13 vs. 10. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.904, 192.58; 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 195.22 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.897, 194.38.

Did Not Qualify _ 17. Jim Underdahl, 6.997, 191.13; 18. Kelly Clontz, 7.004, 192.55; 19. Mark Paquette, 7.056, 188.20; 20. Andie Rawlings, 7.231, 181.76.

 

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 6 2018
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