Lucas Oil Racing TV rider Hector Arana Jr. sped to the No. 5 qualifying spot, and Lucas Oil racer Hector Arana Sr. hung on to the 16th and final spot in the field. Both, however, are gunning for another U.S. Nationals title.
“I feel good,” said Arana Jr., who won this race in his rookie season of 2011. “We were very consistent. I tried a couple of little things in the last session but it didn’t work, so I know not to do that tomorrow. Other than that, we are very consistent off the starting line if you look at my 60-foot times, so I was pleased with that.
“We were able to improve every round except for the last one when I was trying some things. The motor ran faster the last round anyway, regardless. When all is said and done, we were running faster and faster.”
Arana Jr. had a best pass of 6.853 seconds at 195.56 mph and will race Michael Ray in the first round Monday. Ray qualified No. 12 with a run of 6.887 at 194.80 mph.
Arana Jr. is racing with a new engine, named “Jake” after Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas’ late grandson.
“We only had two runs on the dyno before coming down here, and it had never been down the track,” Arana Jr. said. “Every time down the track, it’s gone faster and faster. Jake was a wild man, and he was always fast and that’s what the motor is showing to be, just like him, so I’m excited to be able to run that motor named after him. It’s an honor to be able to do that for Forrest and Charlotte Lucas.”
Lucas Oil has been a longtime sponsor of Arana Racing, starting with Arana Sr., the team patriarch. The elder Arana hasn’t had the best weekend, as his 6.918 at 194.04 mph has him squaring off against No. 1 qualifier Angelle Sampey, but he knows you have to be in it to win it.
“In order to have a chance, you’ve got to qualify,” Arana Sr. said. “It doesn’t matter if you are in first place or 16th. I just have to focus on what I have to do and do my job and hope for the best. It’s not over until we cross that finish line.
“I keep asking the bike what’s wrong, but it won’t talk to me, so I can’t find the problem. I’m still chasing it, and it’s a mystery right now.”
A third Arana Racing bike, the Protect The Harvest/Lucas Oil Buell ridden by Anthony Vanetti, was withdrawn after an unfortunate incident in the second qualifying session. Vanetti, attempting to make his first NHRA race, lost the front brake of his Buell and ended up going into the sand trap at the end of the dragstrip and crashing into the net. Vanetti was fine, but the Buell was not.
“I felt real good, and I was excited about the run,” Vanetti said. “It just didn’t leave the line like it should have, and I was like, ‘You know, I need to make some passes, see the shift light.’ I knew it wasn’t going to be a qualifying time, but I needed the seat time, so I rode it on down there feeling good, hit my shift points, and bang, no front brake at all.”
He pumped the brake three or four times to no avail and then tried to use the rear brake to slow the bike down. Without much experience, Vanetti didn’t use the clutch and transmission to slow the Buell, so he knew he was going to hit the sand.
“I was lucky,” Vanetti said. “I just wanted to separate myself from the bike, which I did in the sand. All I was thinking was going into the sand, because if I hit the net with this bike, I’m going to have some lower-extremity damage, and I was thankful that that crossed my mind for some odd reason and I ditched the bike.
“My heart breaks sending the bike back to southern Indiana, making Hector fix it like this, but it’s not my last time out here. You’ll see me back whether it’s the end of this year or next year.”
Eliminations begin at noon, Monday. FOX Sports 1 will air the early part of Monday’s eliminations live from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live TV coverage will then shift to the main FOX Network with action from 1 to 4 p.m. (All times listed in ET).
Credit: Geiger Media Global