The father-and-son team of Hector Arana Sr. and Jr. have been at or near the top in every NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle event this season, but when Sunday shows up, the duo have found themselves playing second fiddle to the Harley-Davidsons and Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec.
This weekend’s Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway pose another chance for the Buell riders to break through to the win column, but the thin air of Denver makes things more complicated than just lining up beside a foe and beating them down the strip.
"Denver, you've got to be careful," the elder Arana said. "It can get you. It can bite you hard if you miss your tuneup. We have notes from last year, so we've got to look at them and stay within those parameters of the math work we've done and the calculations on the clutch. We should be OK."
Arana has qualified first or second in each of the last five races, with three No. 1 positions, but has only made one final this year. Arana Jr. dispatched his father at Norwalk to reach his first final of the year, but fell in the final when Hines bested him on a holeshot.
We're not really worried about the playoffs too much. My dad and I are third and fourth and we have a little bit of cushion to fifth. We're definitely secure, and we know we're going to be in the Countdown.
The thin air means that the engines have to work a lot harder to make power than at sea level, so the Lucas Oil-sponsored bikes took extra care to go over their powerplants before heading out West.
"We got home from Norwalk and went through all our motors, inspecting them to make sure nothing was wrong," Arana Jr. said. "We pulled out the motors we were running and put some other ones in that have more runs on them for Denver. That way, we don't ruin our parts because Denver is really hard on parts and we don't like to run the motors after Denver."
The Arana family would appear to have its spots in the Countdown to the Championship locked up, standing third and fourth in the points chase with just four events remaining before the playoff format begins.
With that seemingly in hand, the Aranas can focus on getting their setups and tuning sheets ready for when the pressure really kicks in – although snaring a couple of wins during that time would be a boost to the confidence.
"We're not really worried about the playoffs too much," Arana Jr. said. "My dad and I are third and fourth, right there close to each other, and we have a little bit of cushion to fifth. To be third and fourth is pretty good. We're definitely secure, and we know we're going to be in the Countdown. Once the Countdown starts, everything resets, so we just need to focus on dialing in these bikes so once the Countdown starts, we can come out swinging."