MADISON, IL – September 20, 2018 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Before last week, the last time Hector Arana Jr. won a race in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship was 2015 at Gateway Motorsports Park, the site of this weekend’s seventh annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. But Arana Jr. conquered that playoff drought less than a week ago, now taking plenty of momentum into St. Louis this weekend.
Looking for his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship, Arana Jr. made a strong impression at the playoff opener at Maple Grove Raceway, pulling to within three points of leader and defending world champion Eddie Krawiec. A year that has already included Arana Jr. becoming the first in the class to reach the 200 mph milestone, the talented rider hopes to stay in contention to accomplish a first in his career on his Lucas Oil Racing TV EBR.
“All the wins (in the regular season) are great, but what matters are wins in the Countdown and that’s what we’re working on,” said Arana Jr., who has 13 career victories in the class. “We’re working on consistency and that’s what we’ve been working on all year. I think we definitely have a bike to beat this year and we are a strong championship contender.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 23. The second of six races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship also marks the 12th of 16 in a 2018 Pro Stock Motorcycle season that has featured a number of big moments for Arana Jr.
He recorded the historic 200 mph milestone at the opening race of the year in Gainesville, added his first victory since 2015 in Denver and then started the playoffs on an impressive note, taking out both Krawiec and No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith to close out his winning weekend. Arana Jr. knows there is plenty of work left to do, but he’s focused on closing the season strong.
“I definitely have been fortunate enough to have a lot of great accomplishments in my career,” Arana Jr. said. “I think the only thing that’s lacking now is a championship. We’re definitely working really hard for that and I think my team is capable of that.”
But Arana Jr. knows he will have to be on his game to not only track down Krawiec, a four-time world champion, but also ward off the likes of Smith, defending event winner Tonglet, five-time world champ Andrew Hines, Angie Smith, Angelle Sampey, Steve Johnson, Jerry Savoie, and Scotty Pollacheck. Arana Jr. is ready for the challenge, though, and will also lead on the expertise of his father, Hector Arana Sr., who won a world title in 2009. That paid dividends last weekend and Arana Jr. was impressive in all facets, including an incredible .003 reaction time on the starting line against Smith. He knows he will need more of that in St. Louis to stay in the title hunt.
“We always work together,” Arana Jr. said. “I can’t thank my team, my dad, enough. They work super, super hard and I can’t thank them enough. We just focus on good power and making fast motorcycles. I was amped up and when I went up there (against Smith), I just went for it and cut a light. It’s very exciting to pick up the win and I just can’t wait to keep trying to get more wins.”
Defending Top Fuel event winner Torrence is after his first world championship and will look to build on his points lead against talented drivers Tony Schumacher and Clay Millican.
Defending Funny Car winner Capps will look up make up ground in the points as he faces off with points leader J.R. Todd, who has two straight wins, and defending world champ Robert Hight.
Greg Anderson is currently third in Pro Stock behind Vincent Nobile, who won the Countdown to the Championship opener, and points leader Tanner Gray.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, which will have its 10th of 12 races, as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. The legends scheduled to attend the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals include Shirley Muldowney.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 2:15 and 5:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (618) 215-8888. Tickets also are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more info about NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association