Hector Arana Jr. is second in the NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock Motorcycle championship points. He has raced to five final-round appearances this year and secured four wins during the season. He has also posted two No. 1 qualifying positions, and he led the points the majority of the season before relinquishing the top spot to Matt Smith following the event in St. Louis. He recently took part in a national NHRA teleconference to discuss this year's campaign and his battle for the championship.
Q: Talk about your season to date, and then secondly, talk about what it's going to take the last two races to get back atop the points standings.
Arana: We started off the season strong, but in all honesty, that doesn't really matter if you don't have your stuff together for the Countdown. I don't know if we lost focus or we lost some of our better motors and just a couple little mistakes on the starting line, and next thing you know, you're in second place. We'll get back into it. We've finally got some good motors back together, and we know what we have to do, and it's not impossible to win, but it's definitely going to be very, very, very tough, and we're going to have to be flawless these next two races and have a little bit of luck on our side. We have our fingers crossed, and we're going to do everything we can to get this Lucas Oil Buell to the championship.
Q: We've seen this year teams get on hot streaks in all four categories, especially where they just seem to have a rash of No. 1 qualifiers, can knock off a couple of wins. How easy is that to catch for any team, and is that something you guys are looking for going into the last two?
Arana: It's easy, you know, and I want to say it's all confidence. When you start going rounds and you start winning the races, you as a driver, you get this confidence, this extra confidence, and you have this attitude that I can't be beat. And when you go to the starting line with an attitude and a confidence like that, it's easier. You're not as worried to red-light, so therefore you're not going to be sleeping at the light. You're just on your game. Like I said, all you've got to do is have a good motor, just feel good that day, have your confidence, and start going rounds, and I think if we can do that and we can get over that second-round hump and just go rounds and not have any mistakes, I think we can do it.
Q: You kind of touched on it a little bit when you mentioned being on your game. Is there a best way to be on your game?
Arana: I mean, we're trying everything we can just to be practicing at the Tree and getting the bike running 100 percent where you're not working to death on it, and those four back-to-back races in the Countdown we were running, the bike was getting hurt; we were running a hurt motor, come back; we were working until midnight every day, load up, drive around the clock to get to the races, and our team, we've been tired. I think now finally we've got some good parts in the motors, we've got them all refreshed with these couple weeks off and kind of regrouped, and I think we'll be good to go.
Q: And as far as it being a long season, of course everyone says every round counts, but now you've got just eight rounds, basically. How do you approach those rounds knowing that you're running out of them?
Arana: Yeah, you know, one round at a time, and every round counts. Like I said, a little bit of luck and no errors on my side as a driver, and hopefully no errors on the bike, and hopefully the No. 1 guy goes out early, and you can gain those points. Other than that, you finish wherever you finish.
Q: Hector, with that LE Tonglet flak, was that just kind of spouting off in the heat of the moment, and does that make you vulnerable with your opponents?
Arana: Definitely that was heat of the moment. You're angry; you're stressed out. It's the Countdown, and you're trying to go rounds, and they did play games. They did go and double-bulb me. We always try to race fair, but apparently, you can't do that. Being a nice guy hasn't gotten us anywhere so far this year in the Countdown, and the class is so tight right now that you've got to beat them on the starting line, so everybody is doing everything they can, especially if their motor isn't running as strong as other people because that's what they have to do to win. It's my fault for falling into that. I should have known better, but I've never run into a situation like that. You know, that's what happens. But like I said, I learned my lesson, and I've got a game plan for next time that happens.
Q: You know, you talked about you're going to have to be flawless in these last two races, and you've been talking about that already, but that just puts a lot of pressure on you. Is that too much to ask when time is running out, for everything to be flawless? How much pressure does that put on you?
Arana: You know, it does put pressure, and I don't know if it's too much to ask or not, but it's what we have to do, so it's what we have to ask.
Q: You mentioned that you guys, your team was tired with the back-to-back races. What effect does it have on you guys having three bikes this year?
Arana: Well, I can tell you this: When we were racing with two bikes the past two seasons, we were already short a crew guy, and that was with the number that we had. Then we come to this year, and we added another bike; essentially, we lost a crew guy because my brother was one of the crew guys, and now he's a driver, so now we had three bikes with the same amount of crew guys starting off the season, and then halfway through the season, we lost another guy. So it's me, my dad, and my brother, and my crew chief, Dan. That's how we're racing. We got another guy locally over here that he stepped up to the plate to help us go to the races, and his name is Galen, and we want to thank him for doing that, stepping in last minute. He's got a wife and a family, but he's sacrificing that to help us make it through the season, and then we also have Juan that comes to all the races, he and his sister, and they'll cook for us and everything, and he has also stepped up to the plate and is helping us work on the bikes and making it possible for us to race.
Q: We go into Las Vegas, such a fun city, exciting city. Obviously, your focus will be at the track, but what are some keys to having success at that venue?
Arana: Vegas is a very good track. It's smooth. But just making sure you stay relaxed and stay focused and get good rest, don't stay up too late on the Strip, and most of all have fun. You've got to have fun while you're doing this. If you're not having fun, then you shouldn't be doing it. Like I say, we're tired, but we're still having fun, and we love racing. We love flying the Lucas Oil colors, and that's why we're out here doing this.
Q: I'm wondering how does the team allocate engines down the stretch here. Do you have one designated engine per race, or do you guys have a pool of engines? How do you figure that out?
Arana: Well, we have three motors that we've built all as close as we can together, but as you know, you can build two motors identical, and one always runs better than the other. So we have three motors that run really good, which are taken up by all three of us drivers, and then we have two backups that are pretty close, and that's it. So hopefully, our motors will last us for the rest of the season, and if something happens, we have two backup motors, and then we also have parts in a trailer that hopefully we can rebuild a motor to keep it running.