Arana Jr. pockets second victory of '11, moves to second in points

Hector Arana Jr.
Hector Arana Jr.

Photo by: Ted Rossino

READING, Pa. (Oct. 3) -- Rookie Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Jr. claimed his second national event title of the season Monday at the rain-delayed 27th annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals. Arana beat heated rival Matt Smith in a wire-to-wire job that turned out to be the quickest side-by-side race in class history.

Leaving nothing to doubt, Arana left first on his Lucas Oil Buell with a reaction time of .038 seconds to Smith's .064-second start, and also ran a better pass to take out the past series champion with a 6.781 at 195.82 mph to Smith's 6.795 at 194.24 mph.

"We have a lot of momentum right now," Arana said. "My runs have been improving and we plan to keep this streak going. This should help me for the rookie-of-the-year award and give me a good chance for the championship. I finally got to qualify No. 1 and win the race. That’s something I’ve been trying to do all year long."

The weekend started strong with Arana bagging his fifth low qualifier of the year after a quarter-mile pass of 6.824 seconds at 195.48 mph. He then got an easy first-round win against Bailey Whitaker on Sunday morning when Whitaker fouled out at the starting line.

Following the round, a misty and persistent rain descended on Maple Grove Raceway, eventually forcing officials to postpone the final three elimination rounds to Monday.

Unshaken by the wait, Arana crushed his next two opponents, Chip Ellis and three-time champion Andrew Hines, with runs of 6.844 at 193.10 mph and 6.813 at 195.68 mph. That set up a trophy-round grudge match with Smith, who openly complained on ESPN2 that Arana didn't wait for him at the last race in Dallas when he encountered mechanical issues at the starting line.

"We wanted to beat Matt, no question," Arana said. "I waited on him (in Dallas) until Rick (Stewart, NHRA official starter) told me to stage. He's the one running the show up there so you listen to what he says. There's too much on the line right now to mess around and get DQ'ed.

"Most of all we wanted to win another race. We're in a tight battle with Vincent (Nobile) for the rookie-of-the-year deal and now we both have two wins so it's going to come down to these last three events. In my mind, it's tied up so may the best man win down the stretch. I hope it's us but if he gets it then I'll be the first one to shake his hand."

Arana, who also won the U.S. Nationals in Indy, is now just 35 points behind leader Eddie Krawiec.