The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series can be a grind for many competitors given the cross-country travel, the long three-day weekends, the constant preparation and the pressure to make perfect runs.
If you happen to be a rookie in NHRA, the season can seem even longer. If veterans have a hard time adjusting to the draining schedule, many rookies are overwhelmed by what it takes to complete the year at a high level.
Hector Arana Jr. was the epitome of a raw rookie when he started 2011, having only a handful of passes in testing on the powerful Lucas Oil Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle when the year began in Gainesville, Florida, in March. But by season’s end, Arana Jr. wanted to keep going, and no wonder.
“I’m just really bummed out that this is the last race of the year,” Arana Jr. said at the season finale in Pomona, California, in November. “It means no more racing until next year, so that kind of stinks. I’m just excited to find more horsepower, try out some new things and kick some ass next year.”
Arana Jr. kicked some tail in 2011, to say the least. He led the Pro Stock Motorcycle class with seven No. 1 qualifiers, won three races and finished a close second to veteran Eddie Krawiec in the battle for the championship.
At season’s end, he was honored with the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as the top rookie in NHRA, beating good friend and brother of his girlfriend, Vincent Nobile.
Arana Jr. added his name to a stellar list of NHRA’s finest who have won the award: L.E. Tonglet, Spencer Massey, Mike Neff, Ashley Force Hood, Robert Hight, Jason Line, Melanie Troxel and Antron Brown. And to think, all those accolades came after a season that started rather inauspiciously with a DNQ.
“The main thing I thought about at the beginning of this season was just to be able to qualify for the races,” Arana Jr. said. “The first time I rode one of the Pro Stock Motorcycles was this year , so simply making the races was my main expectation.”
But thanks to a girl named Gracie, a guy named Dan and a little experience, the 22-year-old Arana Jr. was the hottest rider around by the end of the year. Arana Jr. is the oldest son of Hector and Grace Arana, and his dad has been racing Pro Stock Motorcycles since the early 1990s, winning the 2009 championship for Lucas Oil. Arana Jr. was with him most of the way, serving as crew chief and doing whatever needed to be done to the bike, the motorhome and the pit area. The Aranas are a true family team, with Hector Jr.’s brother Adam working on the crew, too.
“I’ve been going to drag races ever since I was in my mom’s belly, really,” Arana Jr. said. “This is the only life I really know. “Riding the bike was really the only thing different for me this year, as I’ve worked on my dad’s bike for years while coming to the races. I still work on the bike, but now I get to ride it, too.
Text by Rob Geiger
Photos Courtesy of Lucas Oil