Lucas Oil pro Hector Arana Jr. misses Denver pole by .001 seconds; now eyes win

DENVER (July 22) — Hector Arana Jr. has lived up to his prerace declarations that he was going to be a top contender at this weekend’s 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, qualifying just one-thousandth of a second off the pole at Bandimere Speedway with a stout 7.179-second quarter-mile clocking at 186.28 mph.

Arana did all he could on his Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell to best leader Eddie’s Krawiec’s previously-posted 7.178 in the final of three time trials Saturday evening, but ultimately missed the mark by an eyelash.

“We’re really excited,” Arana said. “If it hadn’t rained and we could have made both runs yesterday or even if they had added a make-up round earlier today we would have run even better yet. We’ll take being second for now. I’d much rather be No. 1 on race day than in qualifying.

“I knew our Lucas Oil Racing TV bike would be good. We’ve been on a tear lately (two final rounds in last three races) and we’re only getting more consistent so we’re ready to collect some trophies.”

So far, Arana’s Buell has been extremely steady. He opened with a 7.191 at 186.36 mph in Friday’s lone session, posted a 7.197 at 186.98 mph in Q2 and then lowered his best mark to his run of record — 7.179 at 186.28 mph — at the death. He collected seven bonus points in qualifying, more than any other rider in the class.

“We only race at altitude once a year so we were happy to start off right away with a combination that ran well right out of the trailer,” Arana said. “Denver always is a challenge for tuning the bike. You just have to sneak up on it and tweak things. You can’t make big changes or you’ll get yourself in trouble. No one has a normal, everyday tune-up for the mountain.

“You tend to lean a lot on last year’s notes and then you take the current weather and you do a bunch of calculations to get the desired tune-up. When you start the weekend, you just throw your best educated guess at it and hope for the best. Losing a run makes it even harder but it’s the same for everyone so what can you do?”

Arana will begin his quest for a Denver trophy opposite Steve Johnson, who qualified 15th with a 7.362 at 179.16 mph.

“I’ll be upset if we don’t challenge for the win,” he said. “I’m very optimistic.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. The FOX Network will carry eliminations live from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)

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