Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Hector Arana Sr. has one of the broadest and warmest smiles of anyone in the NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. But so often he's far too absorbed in the minutiae of his motor to relax and flash that grin.
He was all smiles Friday at Brainerd, Minn., as he took the provisional No. 1 qualifying position for the Lucas Oil Nationals. After all, this is the race that Forrest and Charlotte Lucas sponsor. They also happen to be his 9-to-5 bosses at the synthetic oils and lubricants plant at Corydon, Ind., as well as the longtime sponsor for his motorcycle-racing operation.
The Lucas Oil Buell racer covered the Brainerd International Raceway quarter-mile in 6.884 seconds, an elapsed time that was just three-thousandths shy of the track record his son set last year.
"I was surprised that my first round was an .88 [6.88-second E.T.]," Arana Sr. said. "I just couldn't believe it, but the bike hooked up. It left good, and I was really pleased. I was pleased with the preparation of this track. But it’s always been great here.
"There's something special here, and it's not just the track," he said as he anticipated his fourth No. 1 start of the season. " It looks like it's even the people working the track, the Safety Safari, the fans. It's like the whole attitude's different. It's more . . . it seems like it's relaxed. We're supposed to enjoy this. That's the feeling I get. I feel like 'I don’t care -- I'm having a great time!' and things just fall into place."
Provisional No. 2 qualifier Andrew Hines was fastest in the class Friday, but his 193.57 from the first session fell far short of the track-record 196.82 that the Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson rider established seven years ago. It is the longest pro track mark at BIR.
Arana Sr. said this 31st annual visit to the Minnesota northwoods (and its crazy on-site campground nicknamed "The Zoo") "is one race I seem to be more relaxed [at], because the fans there are so great to the racers, especially those of us sponsored by Lucas Oil. The way they treat us at the Zoo -- they show us the appreciation. When I go to Brainerd, I don't feel the pressure. I feel more relaxed, I feel happier. We want have a great time and let the fans know we appreciate them."
This trip to "The Zoo" also brought out the animal in Arana, the 2009 Brainerd winner and series champion who's fourth in the standings and definitely loaded for bear to overthrow the dominant Harley-Davidson team in the Countdown.
"With the streak that the V-Rods are having," he said, "wouldn't this be the greatest moment if we could pull one off and hand Forrest Lucas the trophy? They're the best sponsors you can ever have."
Ultimately Aranma Sr. knows that he must take care of his own business, he said.
"We've got the performance. We're running well. We just have to take care of our program and focus only on our program," Arana Sr. said. "The other teams are going to do what they're going to do."
Arana Sr. and Hines were the only two Friday to perform in the 6.8-second range. Hector Arana Jr. was third at 6.905, 192.71 and Eddie Krawiec fourth at 6.909, 192.11.
Completing the top half of the ladder so far are (fifth through eighth, respectively) Karen Stoffer, LE Tonglet, Scotty Pollacheck, and John Hall.
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