BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 19) — Hector Arana Jr. has started the second half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle schedule in style with a top-qualifying effort at the 36th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. The rider of the Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell used his 6.879 at 194.24 mph from Friday night to secure the spot.
“It’s been two years since we’ve earned the No. 1 spot and we have been working hard to get back here,” said Arana, who last qualified on the pole at the 2015 Norwalk race. “I’m telling you, we’ve been working harder than we ever thought we would have to work at this and it’s finally paying off. It’s amazing; a great feeling!”
Being No. 1 is extra sweet for Arana, especially considering he qualified second at four of the last five races leading into his title sponsor’s marque event. Now he’ll try to covert his 19th career pole into his 12th victory.
“This means a lot to me, everybody back at the shop, my crew, we are all in this together,” Arana said. “Everybody works so hard for this and it’s nice we’re finally getting the results. Even this year, we’ve been running really well. We’ve been No. 3, No. 2 a bunch, and that’s awesome and we’re happy to get those, but it’s special to finally get the No. 1. It really does mean a lot.
“It’s awesome whenever and wherever it happens, but to get it at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, it’s one of the best things we can do for (Lucas Oil founders) Forrest and Charlotte Lucas. Now the next thing to do is turn this green hat (signifying top qualifier) into the yellow one (for race winners).”
Arana has logged two runner-up results this year, in Englishtown, N.J., and Chicago. He entered the weekend ranked third in the Mello Yello championship standings, trailing only LE Tonglet and Eddie Krawiec. Arana already has earned a place in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which begin in four weeks in Charlotte.
By locking up the No. 1 slot, Arana confirmed an opening-round date with final qualifier and native Minnesotan Jim Underdahl, who anchored the 16-bike field with a 7.091 at 189.02 mph. Arana has not raced Underdahl this year.
“I think we can run even better,” Arana said. “We tried some things today and maybe found something that we can apply to Friday’s tuneup and make us quicker. We’ll definitely be ready for race day and as long as we can stay consistent and repeat runs like that we’ll be really good.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations begin around noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will air the action live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)