JOLIET, IL – July 7, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Hector Arana Jr. was likely as happy as anyone to be heading to Route 66 Raceway for this weekend’s K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle standout has won the last two races at the state-of-the-art facility on his Lucas Oil Buell and hopes those good vibes lead to a much-needed spark in what has been an otherwise frustrating start to his 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Arana Jr. has just one round win through five races this year, a far cry from the success the 11-time class winner has been accustomed to during his standout career. The good news is there is still time to rectify the problems and Arana Jr., who sits 12th in points as the playoffs loom, hopes he can initiate a season turnaround this weekend at Route 66 Raceway.
“It has been extremely frustrating for me, especially since we’ve done so well in past years,” Arana Jr. said. “This year, I’m struggling and I’m not even in the top 10 in points yet. We keep picking away at that, and I’ve been able to gain a position here and there, and I’m slowly sneaking up on the top 10. But for whatever reason, it’s been hard for me to go rounds and keep the bike consistent. We’ll have a fast run here and there, but just when we think it’s fast, others are able to go faster and we haven’t been able to. That’s what we’re working on.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) were also last year’s winners of the event near Chicago that will for the first time be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. The fan-favorite event is the sixth of 16 races during the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle season and only four races follow it before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
Arana Jr., who has finished in the top five in points in all five years of his PSM career, is aware of that and knows something positive must take place in Chicago. But he is confident that will happen for a couple of reasons. The first is his previous success at Route 66 Raceway and the second was the strides he saw at the most recent event in Norwalk. It didn’t lead to a round win, as he lost to his father Hector Arana Sr., but Arana Jr. maintained it was a step in the right direction.
“(The first round of eliminations) in Norwalk, we made a big stride forward,” Arana Jr. “We made a really good pass. It wasn’t our best E.T. because my 60-foot was a little off, but we had the best back-half, the best mph all weekend in the worst air. Now, if we can continue that momentum and move forward with that, focus and go rounds.
“I’m very confident. We made that pass in Norwalk and we’ve been able to build off that run. We went home and everything looked good. Everything is settling in, and that’s when things get fast. We can really fine-tune the tune-up and everything is good to go. Hopefully we can be consistent and fast.”
It’s been an uphill climb for Arana Jr. from the start of the year after two early first-round exits sandwiched around a DNQ. Couple those setbacks with an extremely deep and talented field of Pro Stock Motorcycle riders, and that puts an even bigger spotlight on this next stretches of races for Arana Jr. starting in Chicago. But Arana Jr. has done well in big moments and knows how his bike is capable of performing.
“I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself because I know there’s still plenty of time and the points are really close,” said Arana Jr., who is 11 points out of 10th place. “I need to focus on doing my job as a rider and going rounds. As long as I’m able to do that, everything should all come together and we should be good to go.”
Trying to keep Arana Jr. from a third consecutive win at Route 66 Raceway is points leader Eddie Krawiec, who already has a class-best three wins in 2016 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Other top standouts include the likes of defending world champion Andrew Hines, two-time world champion Matt Smith, who lost to Arana Jr. in the final at Chicago last year, Jerry Savoie, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, who won in Englishtown, LE Tonglet, Pomona runner-up Arana Sr. and Karen Stoffer.
But Arana Jr. feels extremely comfortable racing at Route 66 Raceway, which could be a major factor in starting his resurgence this year.
“Chicago is a nice track, a nice facility,” Arana Jr. said. “It’s a great group of guys who run the track. The fans are awesome, and we’ve been lucky and have had great success there. It’s a fun track. When we’re done working on the bikes, we’re fishing in that pond by the starting line. It’s a nice, relaxing, fun track for us.”
In Top Fuel, Chicago native and defending event winner Schumacher, an eight-time world champion, will try to win for the first time in 2016. A five-time Chicago winner, “The Sarge” will face off against a host of stars in the loaded Top Fuel class, including points leader Kalitta, who has three wins in 2016, two-time season winner Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, who also has two wins this year, J.R. Todd, Richie Crampton, defending world champion Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon, who enters the event riding a two race winning streak, hometown favorites Terry McMillen and T.J. Zizzo and the loquacious Clay Millican.
Tommy Johnson Jr. sprinted to the Funny Car victory in Chicago last year by outlasting Matt Hagan in the final and has plenty of momentum by picking up his first victory this season in Bristol. Hagan, a three-time Chicago winner, has two victories this season, while everyone is chasing red-hot points leader Ron Capps, who has won three of the last four events and has four wins in 2016. The rest of the star-studded field includes 16-time world champion John Force, three-time event winner and defending world champ Del Worsham, two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman, Courtney Force, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria.
Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson drove to his first victory of the 2015 season in Chicago and will have the chance to shake things up in the redesigned Pro Stock class this weekend, which has been dominated by Jason Line and Greg Anderson in the first half of 2016. The new look Pro Stock cars feature fuel injected engines, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters, flat hoods and shortened wheelie bars. Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro teammates Line and Anderson have been quick to figure out the new configuration and setup and have been unbeatable in the first 12 races. Line has seven wins and the points lead, and Anderson is right behind with five victories. Both have already secured their playoff berths into the Countdown. Meanwhile, drivers like back-to-back world champ Erica Enders, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, 2015 top rookie Drew Skillman, Chris McGaha, veteran driver Shane Gray, and rising stars Alex Laughlin and Bo Butner are eager to find their way to winner’s circle as well.
The K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, including the popular and highly-competitive JEGS Allstars bonus event.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. on Friday, July 8, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 9, at 3:15 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 10.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 888-629-RACE (7223) or 815-722-5500. Tickets also are available online at www.route66raceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
K&N FILTERS ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 19th annual K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event, including the popular JEGS Allstars.
WHERE: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 632 feet above sea level; Track direction is west to east.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, July 7-10
THURSDAY, July 7 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, July 8 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:15 and 7:45p.m.
SATURDAY, July 9 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 6 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 10 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 9, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 10, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock, Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Jeg Coughlin, 5, PS; Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Whit Bazemore, 3, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; John Force, 3, FC; Matt Hagan, 3, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Kurt Johnson, 3, PS; Jason Line, 3, PS; Del Worsham, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.729 sec. by Anton Brown, July ’15; 328.78 mph by Dave Connolly, July ’15.
Funny Car – 3.966 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, July ’15; 322.50 mph by Courtney Force, June ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.528 sec. by Drew Skillman, July ’15; 211.83 mph by Greg Anderson, July ’15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.856 sec. by Chip Ellis, July ’15; 196.82 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (888) 629-RACE (7223) or purchase online at www.route66raceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Doug Kalitta, 1,009; 2. Antron Brown, 940; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, 832; 5. Tony Schumacher, 729; 6. Shawn Langdon, 711; 7. J.R. Todd, 645; 8. Clay Millican, 572; 9. Richie Crampton, 570; 10. Leah Pritchett, 463.
1. Ron Capps, 966; 2. Courtney Force, 836; 3. Jack Beckman, 823; 4. Del Worsham, 762; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 750; 6. Matt Hagan, 747; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 723; 8. Robert Hight, 722; 9. John Force, 668; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 640.
1. Jason Line, 1,389 *; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,274 *; 3. Bo Butner, 796; 4. Allen Johnson, 719; 5. Drew Skillman, 683; 6. Vincent Nobile, 613; 7. Chris McGaha, 557; 8. Shane Gray, 532; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 528; 10. Alex Laughlin, 498.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 557; 2. (tie) Andrew Hines, 391; Jerry Savoie, 391; 4. Angelle Sampey, 372; 5. Chip Ellis, 300; 6. Hector Arana, 291; 7. LE Tonglet, 253; 8. Matt Smith, 192; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 183; 10. Steve Johnson, 179.
* Clinched playoff berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship