Third-ranked rider Hector Arana Jr. has sights set on St. Louis success

ST. LOUIS (Sept. 26) — With four races left in the 2017 Countdown to the Championship, Lucas Oil Racing TV rider Hector Arana Jr. knows this weekend’s sixth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park could be a pivotal stepping stone in his quest for the Mello Yello championship.

Currently third in the points, Arana is less than one round (18 points) behind second-place rider LE Tonglet and 89 markers out of first place, a perch held by multi-time series champion Eddie Krawiec.

“This is another big race for us,” Arana said. “We need to maintain what we’ve been able to accomplish so far that’s put us in position to challenge for the championship, and at the same time we actually need to find a way to step it up a little bit and out-run the two riders ahead of us so we can make up some ground.

“St. Louis is close to my Indiana home so I’ve got my friends from Indiana, my sister and my mother all coming out to support us. Plus, we will be able to go to the shop in Corydon (Ind.) for a day or two and go through everything to make sure we’re totally prepared for the race. I’m expecting us to have a really fast bike for St. Louis.”

Arana has started the Countdown to the Championship playoffs with a pair of semifinal finishes. His Lucas Oil Buell has been quick enough to win even more rounds, so he knows the potential for ultimate success remains a strong possibility.

He’s also had plenty of success in St. Louis, winning the event outright in 2015 and earning top qualifier honors in 2012.

“We’ve had a fast bike all year and we’ve done well in St. Louis so I’m very optimistic,” he said. “We already know we have a fast bike and they say it’s going to be a little cooler weather this weekend so we should be even faster. We’ll have to see what happens. A lot can change between now and then.”

As he predicted prior to the Countdown, the two-bike Harley team and the two riders from White Alligator Racing have been his biggest rivals.

“St. Louis is going to be another close race for all of us,” he said. “You’re seeing a lot of rounds won or lost by thousandths of a second. It’s always that way in this class but it seems even more extreme now with so much on the line every round.

“Everything we do to prepare has stayed the same. I’m just trying to focus more on the tree and being a better rider. My guys are doing an excellent job making the bike fast so I just have to return the favor and do my job and get good lights. I just have to focus on that and keep on digging, that’s all.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:45 and 6:15 p.m., Friday, and 1:15 and 3:45 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first day qualifying action live from 5-6 p.m., Friday. Live eliminations will air on FOX Sports 1 from 1-4 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)