Arana Jr. named Auto Club Rookie of the Year
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 15) – Lucas Oil Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Jr. capped off a stellar season by winning the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as the top rookie in drag racing.
Arana Jr. accepted the award during the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series awards ceremony Monday night at the Grand Ballroom at the Hollywood and Highland Center. After joining the eight other drivers who were eligible for the award on stage, Arana Jr. said he "was shocked" when his name was called.
"I wasn't really sure what the outcome was going to be," Arana Jr. said. "I was really hoping for a tie. Vincent (Nobile) and I both did a good job, and it kinda stinks they could only pick one. But I'm proud to have won.
"I've got a big reputation to live up to now with all the other drivers who have won the rookie award. I've got a lot to prove now."
Past winners of the award include L.E. Tonglet, Spencer Massey, Mike Neff, Ashley Force Hood, Robert Hight, Jason Line, Melanie Troxel, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Antron Brown.
Arana Jr. is the second consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to have won the award, following Tonglet from 2010.
"I've got to thank Forrest and Charlotte Lucas," Arana Jr. said. "I love those guys; they're like family. If it wasn't for them and Lucas Oil, we wouldn't be here. It's an honor to be able to fly their colors.
"And thanks to my dad for bringing me here and believing in me. I was a true rookie. When I started, I only had five passes down the quarter-mile. My dad had a lot of belief in me to know that I could do this."
Arana Jr. and Pro Stock driver Vincent Nobile waged a stirring battle for this year's honor, despite being good friends. Arana Jr., in fact, is dating Nobile's sister – Nicole – who subtly sidestepped questions about her allegiance.
"Next year we can root each other on," Arana Jr. said of he and Vincent Nobile. "You want to root your buddy on, but at the same time, you're thinking, 'Man, he's one step ahead of me.' That made it a little difficult. But next year's going to be fun and exciting, and there won't be any of that anxiety."
Arana Jr. won three races in 2011, including the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, and led the class with seven No. 1 qualifiers. He failed to qualify for the first race of the season but rallied from 17th place in the points standings to emerge as a serious candidate for the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship. He ended as runner-up, sharing the stage with champion Eddie Krawiec on Monday night.
"Over the year, getting seat time helped a lot with me getting comfortable on the bike," Arana Jr. said. "We got an engine that made a lot of horsepower, and then I learned to ride the bike to its full potential. We won a couple races and started going rounds.
"This has been the most amazing year of my life. This was my goal, my dream coming into this year. Everything was the rookie of the year award."