Final-round finish an acceptable outcome for title challenger Hector Arana Jr.

ST. LOUIS (Sept. 30) — Back-to-back semifinal finishes to start this year’s Countdown to the Championship has kept Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell rider in the thick of the Pro Stock Motorcycle title chase. Now the young rider, who grew up in Indiana, wants to take things a step further and race into the money round of Sunday’s sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.

“We haven’t had the best qualifying session this weekend but we hope to turn things up a notch overnight and run for the trophy tomorrow,” Arana said. “You almost feel like you have to get to the finals to make up ground. The two guys in front of us aren’t making any mistakes so you need to go further than them on race day.”

Arana trails only Eddie Krawiec and LE Tonglet in the points. Through qualifying, Arana sits eighth, Krawiec second and Tonglet seventh. However, qualifying points aside, Arana knows the biggest strides can be made in eliminations.

In qualifying, Arana posted a best pass of 6.833 at 195.87 mph. That sets up a first-round date with No. 9 qualifier Karen Stoffer, who ran a best of 6.850 at 195.22 mph. Arana and Stoffer have raced four times this year with Arana taking all four win lights.

“We’ve been struggling with leaving the starting line and we don’t know exactly why,” Arana said. “I can’t say that I’m happy. I wish we had one more qualifying round. There’s one more thing we would like to try before race day but we don’t have an extra session so all we can do is go back and study all of our graphs, look at everything and put together our best educated guess for tomorrow.

“I have full confidence in my team and myself to make a good call. That’s all we can do. At this point, we have to rely pretty heavily on our experience and that’s okay because between me, my dad and Jim Yates, we’ve seen a lot of stuff.”

“I’m riding the bike the same. There’s an issue with either tires or wheelie bar set up. We haven’t changed it but this is a different tire than we ran earlier in the year. We have a few runs on it now but it seems to not be as consistent as the other tire we had and we just have to figure it out better.”

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

Photo Credit: Michael Allio