Hector Arana Jr. takes NHRA Sonoma Nationals
Hector Arana Jr. got back in the winners circle after a five-race drought, taking the win at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, CA. Arana Jr. wheeled his Lucas Oil S&S-powered Buell past the Viper Motorcycle Buell of Matt Smith in the final round.
Arana Jr. has been the story of the season. After opening the season with a three-race win streak, the second year rider has been shut out of the winner’s circle since.
His slump was as noteworthy as his win streak – in four races he won only two rounds of competition. He came close in Denver, going to the final against Shawn Gann only to lose when his bike stumbled off the line in the final.
In Sonoma he pulled it all together despite some stiff competition from Smith.
The Arana family finished the first day of qualifying in Sonoma in the top three spots with dad leading the way at 6.89 and Adam and Hector Jr. right behind with 6.90s.
In the last session on Saturday Arana Jr. went to the top position for about 3 minutes with a run of 6.840 seconds. One pair later Smith edged him out for the pole at 6.838 seconds. It was the third number one qualifying performance of the season for Smith and the eighth time an S&S-powered Buell qualified on the pole in the nine races run this year.
Buells took the top four spots in qualifying at Sonoma with Michael Ray (6.841) and Arana Sr. (6.865) following the quick pair.
Arana Sr. came alive in the first round of eliminations with low elapsed time of the event at 6.805 seconds with a win over John Hall. In the second round he held the quick lap of the round as well with a 6.816 at a new track record speed of 198.44 mph against LE Tonglet.
Smith turned back Arana Sr. in the semifinals with a 6.82 to go to his third final of the year.
Arana Jr. wasn’t running as quick as his dad but was still going rounds, getting by Scotty Pollacheck, Jerry Savoie and Katie Sullivan, the local racer appearing in her first semi of her career and the only Suzuki in the round of four.
Arana Jr. had a crushing .009 reaction time in the final and didn’t need all of it, outpacing Smith’s slightly quicker 6.877 with a 6.878 for his seventh career win.
“I think during my slump I was thinking about winning the race before I even won a round,” said Arana Jr. “I am going to go one round at a time, one race at a time. The slump was motivation to get back on top.”
Arana Jr. noted that the rule change implemented by the NHRA in the beginning of the season standardizing valve train parameters across engine platforms have worked as designed.
“I’ve never seen the numbers so close,” he said. “Finally we have good parity in the class and good, competitive racing.”
Arana Jr. has led the championship points since the beginning of the season and his performance at the last two races pulled him away from his closest competitors. He has a 149-point lead over Smith and the two are the only riders to have locked into a place in the championship “Countdown”. S&S-powered Buells currently hold the top six spots and could account for eight of the 10 available spots in the Countdown.
The NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors have a three-week break before “The Big Go” - the US Nationals at Indy, which is the last race before the NHRA Countdown playoffs begin.