CHICAGO (July 6) – As the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series pulls into Route 66 Raceway for this weekend’s 20th annual Fallen Patriots NHRA Route 66 Nationals just outside of Chicago, Hector Arana Jr., rider of the Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell, is poised to pick up his first victory of 2017 at a track that has been great to him over the years.
Arana, a 28-year-old resident of East Northport, N.Y., claimed back-to-back wins at the record-breaking Route 66 track in 2014 and 2015. One of drag racing’s brightest young stars, Arana is hoping to visit the familiar winner’s circle again this Sunday.
“Chicago is one of my favorite races,” Arana said. “Obviously, I’ve won the event twice. Route 66 Raceway is known for having a great surface and a really good bite so we usually make some good 60-foot times there. It’s always been a great place for me and we always do well there. I’m excited to be going back. It would be great to get my first Wally (trophy) of the year at Route 66.”
By his own admission, Arana and his team had a disappointing 2016 season that left them without a win, but the struggles gave them even more drive to turn things around this year. After runner-up and semifinal finishes at the previous two events, confidence is now very high with the second-generation racer.
“We’ve definitely turned the corner performance wise,” Arana said. “The team’s been working really hard on the engine, and we’ve finally gotten back our good horsepower. Between my dad (Hector Arana Sr., crew chief), Dave Elk and everyone working hard at the shop and then my dad, Andrew Schultz and Jim Yates at the track, things are coming together great. There’s been some trial and error, but we’ve got a good combination that’s repeating for us now, and we’re very happy.”
Yates, a multi-time NHRA Pro Stock champion, joined the Arana Racing family at the start of the season as co-crew chief.
“I’ve really learned a lot from Jim about tuning and good note taking,” Arana said. “It’s been a really good bond right from the beginning. We’ve all gelled really well together. When Jim raced, he raced with his family, so he get’s the whole family-racing thing. He’s a really good fit, and we’re having a really good time.”
Two weeks ago Arana’s teammate and father Hector Arana Sr. announced he would not be competing for approximately three months due to a non-racing accident he suffered to his left shoulder. However, Arana Sr. remains a fixture in the pit area for his son.
“It’s unfortunate he can’t race but he’s out there with the team,” Arana said. “He still gets excited when we’re doing well and going rounds. It’s definitely a bummer but I’m glad he’s still on the starting line when we run and helping out as best he can. Right now he’s just focused on healing 100 percent.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle will hold qualifying sessions at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m., Friday, and 3:15 and 6 p.m., Saturday. First round of eliminations begin at 1 p.m., Sunday. NHRA TV on Fox FS1 includes live Chicago coverage 5-7 p.m., Saturday, and 3-6 p.m., Sunday. Times are local and subject to change.