Hector Arana Jr. surprised even himself and upstaged his father Saturday in qualifying No. 1 again for the National Hot Rod Association's AAA Texas Fall Nationals at Ennis, south of Dallas.
He rode his Lucas Oil Buell to a 6.852-second elapsed time on the Texas Motorplex quarter-mile to lead the field for the second time in a row, the second time season, and the first time the Denver race in July.
Hector Arana Sr., Friday night's provisional No. 1 qualifier, held onto the top spot through the early Saturday (third overall) session.
The Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson tag team of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines were the third- and fourth-place qualifiers.
Arana Jr. said he didn't expect to have the low E.T. of the weekend in the scorching mid-90s temperatures with a racing-surface thermometer reading 128 degrees.
"I honestly did not," he said, confessing that he even told someone right before he ran, "We're not going to pick up. It's too hot." Afterward securing the ninth top spot of his young career, he said, "Surprisingly, we did. Finally everything came together.'
He was referring to the motor he named for his sister, Abigail, and the specialized clutch package that goes along with it. He had tried to make a transition from his "Gracie" motor that's named for his mother to "Abigail" but that Abigail wasn't always cooperative at first. She blew up, then the crankshaft malfunctioned.
"We always knew it could run good," Arana Jr. said. He said "Abigail" is making him go "faster and faster because we're learning this new engine and how to tune it and the different characteristics of what it wants."
He said he didn't think the 10-pound weight the NHRA added to the Harley-Davidsons made a bit of difference this weekend.
"I've crossed the scales 10 pounds heavier and it hasn't affected our tune-up or anything, " he said. "I've done it. I haven't seen a difference. So I don't see why it should be a difference on them."
Perhaps Arana Jr. got some fresh inspiration Thursday. That's when he and crew members Daniel Gonzalez and Charles Gordon got the grand tour of the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. They got an up-close look at F-16 Falcon fighter jets that the 457th Fighter Squadron out of the 301st Fighter Wing uses.
Arana Jr., a fulltime mechanical engineering student at Purdue University - College of Technology at New Albany, Ind., learned about maintenance of the F-16 and ejection techniques the airmen at the base learn. He also spent time with Lt. Col. John Marusa - call sign "Farmer" (appropriate for the racer who calls himself "a peasant") and Marusa's crew chief, Sgt. Steve Joubert. They taught him about preparation for flight. Afterward the drag-racing team watched from the flight line as the F-16s took off on sorties. Arana Jr. said he also learned about various transport vehicles and weapons as he interacted with a handful of reserve personnel working at JRB.
"Any time we have an opportunity to go out and do extracurricular activities and take a break from racing to clear your mind - and then also to go out there and hang out with the military who do so much for us who enable us to be able to do this sport - it's always a privilege," Arana Jr. said.
Arana's mission on his first sortie Sunday at the Texas Motorplex will be to battle No. 16 starter Matt Guidera.
He said he's ready to "go for it," especially using consistent reaction times.
Other Round 1 pairings pit Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck, Hines and Steve Johnson, Chip Ellis and Mike Berry, Arana Sr. and Redell Harris, Jerry Savoie and Karen Stoffer, Krawiec and Shawn Gann, and champions LE Tonglet and Matt Smith.
Unqualified, along with John Hall and local racer David Barron from nearby Waxahachie, is Michael Phillips, last year's Pro Stock Motorcycle winner.
"We've been struggling all year," Phillips said. "Went out testing January 16. I crashed the bike, tore it up. And after that, everything we do, the bike's not responding to nothing we do to it. We've just been having one thing after another that's been going on with it."
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