SONOMA, Calif. — Hector Arana Sr. is happy with the progress he has made in recent races in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. He was also pleased with the victory his son Hector Arana Jr. earned in Chicago, even if it came at his expense. But Arana Sr. also wouldn’t mind having his own winner’s circle celebration in the near future.
Arana Sr. hasn’t won an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race since 2009, when he claimed five victories en route to a world championship crown. But strong showings as of late have the Milltown, Indiana resident confident that his drought is about to end.
In his last three races on his Lucas Oil Products Buell, Arana Sr. has posted two final round appearances and a semifinal showing last weekend in Denver. The next step is celebrating in a victory and it could come during the second race of the three-week NHRA Western Swing at the 27th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
“It feels like I am heading in the right direction and a win is coming to me,” Arana Sr. said. “You’ve got to get to the final in order to get the win, so what these last few races is doing is building up my confidence. Once you feel that confidence and you feel comfortable, it’s going to fall. It’s coming,”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN2. It marks the ninth of 16 races during the 2014 PSM season and Arana Sr. enters an important stretch of the season running as well as he has all year.
He advanced to finals at Chicago and Norwalk, falling to his son and points leader Andrew Hines, respectively, at the two races. That’s bumped him all the way to fourth in the points standings, putting him in good position for the approaching Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
But Arana Sr., who has six career wins, won’t be satisfied until a victory comes. Since his last win in 2009 he has posted 12 runner-up finishes, a streak he is more than ready to end. The good news is that Arana Sr. feels his bike is running as well as it has in a long time.
“Everything is starting to fall into place,” Arana Sr. said. “We struggled at the beginning of the year, but it seems like everything is coming together. Everything is going as planned, and we’re going in the right direction. I feel comfortable going into the Countdown.”
Arana Sr. is delighted with the fast conditions Sonoma Raceway will likely present, but a loaded field will try to keep him from winning. His son Hector Jr. wants to repeat while his other son Adam also has his sights on his first career PSM win. The Arana trio will also have to contend with the likes of Hines, Eddie Krawiec, reigning world champion Matt Smith, Michael Ray, John Hall, Scotty Pollacheck and Angie Smith.
Sonoma Raceway will also host the MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle, a specialty bonus event in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The event will take place on Saturday and feature eight riders vying for the top prize. Arana Sr. will race Hector Jr. in the opening round, adding even more incentive to a thrilling weekend.
“I love the speed (at Sonoma),” Arana Sr. said. “We can go fast over there, and the speed the bikes reach is great. I’m just going to go and stay focused for the next one and keep looking for the win. We have to get all the maintenance done for Sonoma, so there is a lot of work ahead of us.”
In Top Fuel reigning world champion Langdon took home the win last season in Sonoma and took home his first victory of 2014 in Bristol. Points leader Doug Kalitta, who has seven final round appearances in 2014, has five career wins at Sonoma but will be challenged by the likes of Antron Brown, who has three Sonoma wins, Tony Schumacher, Spencer Massey, reigning Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, Richie Crampton, Denver winner J.R. Todd, and Steve Torrence.
Funny Car driver Capps has four career victories in Sonoma and earned his first win of this season at New England Dragway. The 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force has the most wins of any driver at Sonoma Raceway with seven and to earn his eighth he will have to get past stars like Cruz Pedregon, who has two wins at the Northern California track, two-time Sonoma winner Tim Wilkerson, points leader Robert Hight, who won last weekend in Denver, Courtney Force, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr.
In Pro Stock, Nobile won for the first time in Sonoma a year ago, but will face stiff challenges in his bid to repeat. That will come from the likes of reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., Allen Johnson, who won last weekend in Denver, Jason Line, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray, Chris McGaha, Jonathan Gray and Greg Anderson, who missed the first five races of the season following off-season and is making a charge to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
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 the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time 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, race simulators, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, July 25, with sessions at 4:15 and 6:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, July 26, at 12:55 and 3:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 27. The MiraMonte Records Pro Bike Battle will occur on Saturday, July 26 with rounds at 12:45, 3:15 and 4:40 p.m.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Sonoma Raceway at (800) 870-RACE (7223) or visit www.racesonoma.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free on the final day of qualifying, Saturday, July 26. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.