LAS VEGAS (Oct. 28) — On a weekend that featured the return of his championship-winning father Hector Arana Sr. after a five-month sabbatical due to shoulder surgery, Hector Arana Jr. has returned to the form that made him a title contender for much of this season.
“We’re both on the rebound,” said Arana Jr., who was as high as third in the championship points until back-to-back first-round losses knocked him back to mid-pack. “It’s unfortunate we had to go through that down spell in the middle of the Countdown where we were struggling so much but I think it’s safe to say we are back. The bike is back. My lights are back. It all came back. All I can say is we are happy.”
Arana Jr. qualified his Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell a lofty second on the grid with a 6.940 at 191.87 mph, outpacing all but one of the bikes ahead of him in the points. It’s the same sort of performance he had at almost every race this year, save the last two.
“We had that slide and it hurt us,” Arana Jr. said. “At this point, can we win the championship? No. But can we still win the last two races? Yes. So we are happy that we have a good shot at winning the race tomorrow. We have a consistent bike. We are No. 2. We were No. 1 or No. 2 every session so we are right there and we are really happy.”
As the No. 2 qualifier, Arana Jr. will race Katie Sullivan in the first session. Sullivan qualified 15th with a 7.038 at 189.76 mph.
“We’ll see what happens,” Arana Jr. said. “I don’t care who I am racing, I’m here to win the race.”
Across the pit, veteran Arana Sr. was super pleased to make the field in his last qualifying pass, shocking many in the relatively quick field of 16.
“It’s been awhile since I raced so when I first got here, my first hit I was so happy but on the other hand, I was really nervous and thinking, ‘What’s it going to do? Am I going to be able to handle it?,'” Arana Sr. said. “I dropped that clutch and I’ll tell you what, the bike left and I didn’t feel nothing and I thought this is nothing but then we had engine issues in third gear.
“I couldn’t make the second qualifying run so we talked about it overnight and decided to stick another motor there just to play around. I’m here just to have fun, which I am now, having fun. To come out now and run a 6.97 and qualify in the top half, I am stoked. I am so pleased to be part of this again with my son by my side.”
Remarkably, Arana Sr.’s final pass of 6.973 at 193.40 mph not only got him in the field, but it moved his Lucas Oil EBR all the way to the No. 7 position. That means he’ll have lane choice over first-round foe Mike Berry, who qualified 10th with a 6.998 at 189.39 mph.
“It is like riding a bike,” Arana Sr. said of his return to action. “That is true. Once you know, you know. You might be rusty, and I was at the first hit but then it just keeps getting better and better.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry live eliminations from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)