After crowd-pleasing staging duel, Arana bows to Smith

| March 12, 2012
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Gainesville, Sunday: Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Sr. helped bring the Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville crowd to its feet Sunday with a lengthy second-round staging duel with Matt Smith at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals.

With neither rider willing to stage, perfectly legal according to the rules, NHRA chief starter Mark Lyle finally ordered the two bikes to pull off the starting line. NHRA officials did let them have another chance at the end of the session, but Arana Sr.’s Buell slowed to a pass of 7.218 seconds at 164.79 mph and fell to Smith’s 6.915 at 191.21 mph.

“I could hear the crowd cheering and having a great time,” Arana Sr. said. “I was determined not to stage. But I tell you what, when the official came and signaled me to turn the engine off and back up, my heart stopped. I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ They explained, ‘We’re going to let you restart one more time,’ so the next time, I wasn’t going to play around.”

Arana Sr. went in quickly, and left first on Smith, cutting a light of .055 seconds, to Smith’s .061. But the engine in Arana’s Buell quickly went sour, and he fell behind.

“Something happened to the motor,” Arana Sr. said. “It didn’t perform like the run before. We’re going to have to see what happened. There’s definitely something wrong. We’re going to find it, and we’ll be ready for Houston.”

Arana Sr., the No. 4 qualifier, advanced to the second round after knocking out Jim Underdahl in Round 1. Arana Sr. made a pass of 6.848 seconds at 193.88 mph that was the third-best run of the round. Underdahl went 7.053 seconds at 189.47 mph.

Despite the second-round loss, Arana Sr. is ready to get back to work chasing his old national record. Eddie Krawiec took away Arana’s year-old elapsed-time record this weekend, and that has Arana Sr. fired up to get it back.

“This is the nature of this business,” Arana Sr. said. “Today, you’re on top; tomorrow, you’re not. But if you still want to be on top, you’ve just got to work. It’s out there – you’ve just got to find it. We’re going to keep going. That’s what we want. I want my record back, and I want to win another championship.

“I have to stay focused. We don’t always have to be the fastest bike. My focus point this year is on me now. (Son) Hector (Arana Jr) doing a helluva job on his own. I don’t have to worry about him. But I’ve got to hurry up because if (son) Adam doesn’t start this year, he definitely will next year, and I’ll be in worse shape.”

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