INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 29) - One year ago, Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. joined an exclusive list as a winner of the U.S. Nationals.
Now, the 23-year-old would love to repeat in this weekend's 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway.
"This year has flown by," Arana Jr. said. "I can't believe that we're almost to Indy again. For some reason last year, it seemed like it took so much longer to do the whole year, and this year, everything is just flying by. I don't know why. I don't know if it's because we're doing better this year and there's been a little bit less stress. But this year has been really good so far.
"To win that race again would definitely be another dream come true. To be able to repeat my first race - and to be undefeated at that race - would definitely be amazing."
Arana Jr. entered Indy last year without a victory in his rookie season, but he was coming off a final-round appearance at Brainerd, as his riding was catching up to the performance of his Lucas Oil Buell. Then, at Indy, he beat Angie Smith, L.E. Tonglet, Chip Ellis and Jerry Savoie to secure the first of his three victories of 2011.
"Indy is the one of the most stressful races because it is the biggest race of all time for NHRA drag racing," Arana Jr. said. "Everybody says that your career isn't complete until you get a win at Indy. To be able to do that for my very first career win - and in my rookie year - boy, it's absolutely amazing."
The memories are still vivid for Arana Jr., who struggled in qualifying, securing the No. 5 spot after being first and second in the two prior races. But when Monday rolled around, Arana Jr. caught fire.
"During qualifying last year at Indy, it wasn't going as smoothly," Arana Jr. said. "I remember a couple of things happened with the transmission, and we had to change out a couple parts in the engine. I didn't qualify No. 1 there, and we weren't on top like we did a few races before that. Going into race day, I was a little bit nervous because of that.
"But after round one, everything just started to come together and fall into place. The bike came around, the tuneup came around. I was riding well, and after that first-round win, I was ready to go, I was amped up. All my family was there because it was a home race for us, and a lot of friends were there, too. Every time we'd come back after each round, they would all be there cheering and clapping us on. The whole day was really fun and exciting."
Arana Jr. admitted to feeling some pressure for the final round, but an unusual delay helped him focus.
"We rolled up to the line, and we were waiting for live TV," Arana Jr. said. "The track's been prepped, and we're there sitting in the waterbox, just staring down the track, looking at the finish line, visualizing everything, just waiting.
"We had to wait about five minutes, and I don't know if that helped me get into the zone or what, but we were just sitting there waiting, and I was just visualizing getting a good light, going down the track and never seeing the guy next to me - and winning it. I kept visualizing that while we were waiting for TV. Once they said to fire them up, we did the burnout and everything, and that all came true."
His Lucas Oil Buell made a terrific pass of 6.867 seconds at 192.60 mph to secure the win.
"We crossed the finish line, and I was like, 'Man, we just won the U.S. Nationals. We just won my first race. This is awesome,'" Arana Jr. said. "You just beat the guy and you won the race, and it seems so surreal. At first it didn't seem like I won the U.S. Nationals until I came around the corner and everybody swarmed around me and the Wally got placed into my hand and my family came up to me. Then it finally started to sink in."
Arana Jr., third in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings, should be one of the favorites to win again this year, as he's reached the semifinals in eight of the nine races of 2012, including three final rounds. Plus, he's qualified third or better in 14 consecutive races dating back to last season.
Source: Lucas Oil Racing