HECTOR ARANA: DREAMS COME TRUE

05_21_10_aranaThrough the years, Hector Arana II, never wavered in his belief that if you worked hard enough, and never questioned your beliefs, your goal, whatever it might be, was attainable.

Even when his children, who used to come running to him when he returned from a weekend of racing, yelling, “daddy, daddy did you win” suddenly stopped asking, Arana persevered.

“I remember we stopped asking,” said Hector Arana, III. “I don't remember why we stopped asking. He kept saying no, so I guess we stopped asking because we didn't want to bring up the point and make him feel bad.”

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Through the years, Hector Arana II, never wavered in his belief that if you worked hard enough, and never questioned your beliefs, your goal, whatever it psm winnermight be, was attainable.

Even when his children, who used to come running to him when he returned from a weekend of racing, yelling, “daddy, daddy did you win” suddenly stopped asking, Arana persevered.

“I remember we stopped asking,” said Hector Arana, III. “I don't remember why we stopped asking. He kept saying no, so I guess we stopped asking because we didn't want to bring up the point and make him feel bad.”

Arana never wavered as year after year he struggled to qualify, struggled to win rounds, struggled to get a win, struggled to fulfill his dream of winning an NHRA championship.

It all changed in Norwalk (Ohio) in 2008. All those years, nearly 20 of them, of preaching to his children about hard work paying off – paid off. With his two sons turning the wrenches, Arana garnered his first career Wally.

“Norwalk Ohio was the best feeling ever,” said Arana, III. “Words can't describe how excited I was. How happy and relieved, all the weight was lifted of our shoulders. It was probably the happiest moment of my life.”

Born in Miami, Arana returned to Puerto Rico at an early age with his mother to the small town of Arecibo when his parents divorced. Once he reached his early teens, Arana returned to the United States and the Miami area.

While working 27 years for a local Cadillac dealer, Arana got married, raised a family and raced when he could put together a few extra dollars. Racing was a bug which bit him early in life.

“I have always wanted to race,” remembers Arana. “I have this passion for racing. As a kid in Puerto Rico, I remember a 1957 Chevy with big tires, doing burnouts, revving the motor. I would follow the car but I never went to the racetrack. My mom kept us secluded from a lot of things.

“I would race my bicycle against the kids in the neighborhood. That was my racing.”

Once Hector returned to the United States he got a job and eventually purchased a motorcycle. His motto at the time, “I live to ride and I ride to live.”

With the motorcycle between his legs, a friend suggested they go out to the drag strip in Hollywood, Florida.

“He took me to Hollywood Speedway and I looked and said, 'you're telling me I can I go and race right now.' He said, 'Yes. All you have to do is pay to test, get a tech card and tech the car in.'”

Arana jumped at the opportunity. He drove his '79 Corvette into the tech area, paid the fees and headed to the staging lanes where he made his friend make the  first run. Sitting in the passenger seat, Arana absorbed the process before making his run in the car.

“From that Thursday, I never missed another week. I went every Thursday,” said Arana, adding, “But I took the motorcycle. The love for the motorcycle and the speed just keep growing. The motorcycle was the cheapest thing to make go fast.”

Arana made his professional debut in 1990, earned his first pole in 1994 as he worked to build a career as a professional rider.

It was contact with Lucas Oil which changed the landscape for Arana. The morning after a telephone conversation with Forrest Lucas, a check arrived via UPS.

“He was serious,” said Arana. “And, I think sometimes he believed in me more than I believed in myself. He never pressured me. He never once wavered in his support.

“The next thing which happened that changed my path was a conversation with Larry Morgan. I was telling Larry I was having problems with a valve and he told me to send him the heads and he would see would he could do. I walked away, went straight to the bike and took off the cylinder heads. I was waiting at his door the next morning.

“He probably was thinking, 'what have I gotten myself into.'”

When Morgan was finished with the cylinder heads, Arana finally had enough motor under him to contend for the wins. He collected five in 2009 on his way to the title.

The Wally's and the Championship trophy are back in the shop in Indiana. Duplicates sit in his home.

However, it didn't really hit him, just what it was to be a champion until he was presented with the Champion's ring and jacket at Gainesville in March.

“That's when it hit me,” said Arana, an even bigger smile than normal lighting up his face. “That's when I knew I was the champion and I knew I wanted another one.”

Arana got another taste of what it is to be a champion last week when he, along with nine other champions, were invited to visit the Coca Cola complex in Atlanta.

“You could just feel the power in the room. Champions representing the last nine years in NHRA and I was one of them. I was thinking if they could bottle the energy in that room, wow, that would be a really potent Full Throttle drink.”

As Arana rightfully basked in his accomplishments, the one which means the most is the promise he made to his children over the years – “if you want something and are willing to sacrifice and work hard, your goals can be achieved.”

In what may be the biggest compliment a father can receive, Hector Arana III said, “My dad is my role model. He doesn't tell you not to do drugs, not to smoke, not to drink – he lives it. He works hard and he never gives up. I can't wait for the day when I can race with him, side by side.

“He is the perfect role model for kids today.”

Yes, but not just for kids. Hector Arana II is a perfect role model for adults lost in the world today. Set your goals, never waver and you will be rewarded.

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