National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
Hector Arana, Jr.
September 4, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. I think we'll get underway for today's Mello Yello Drag Racing Series teleconference. The regular season is officially in the history books, and the Countdown to the Championship, the six‑race playoff is set to begin at the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts zMAX on September 13th through the 15th. Joining us on the call today will be the four No. 1 seeds going into the playoff system.
Shawn Langdon in Top Fuel, Matt Hagan in Funny Car, Mike Edwards in Pro Stock, and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle will all be part of our call.
We'll begin today with Hector Arana Jr. Hector Jr., thank you for joining us this afternoon.
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Thank you for having me.
Q. Hector Arana Jr. earns the No. 1 seed in Pro Stock Motorcycle on the strength of four wins this season as well as a runner‑up finish which came in Denver as well as two number one qualifying positions. At the most recent event here at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Arana qualified in the top half of the field and raced to the quarterfinals. Hector, starting with this past weekend, obviously, as a racer you want to win. Were you looking for a little bit more at this past event? What are your thoughts going into the Countdown?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Oh, definitely. I was looking for more. I'd be lying to you if I told I didn't want to win the race. But I was solidly in for the Countdown. We knew all I had to do was qualify and I'd lock up the No. 1 seed. So we were trying a new engine combination, and we were hoping it showed promising on the Dyna, and we were hoping that the numbers would have looked a lot better and we would have ran better down the track, but it doesn't work out that way.
But we took advantage of our position in the rankings and brought out that new motor which was supposed to be a duplicate to my father's, which as you all have seen was a very powerful motor, so we were hoping to get out there. But it didn't run quite as well. We did get some information and found some things out. So, hopefully, we'll try to get that motor up to speed. If not, I always have my motor that I've been running all season to put back in.
Q. Does that number one qualifying position in the Countdown where you were the past couple races, does that give you and your team a little time to maybe test parts here and there, and why you wanted to do good at the event you were at but also get ready for the Countdown?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Oh, definitely. That is exactly what we did at Indy. We took advantage of that, and we did some testing with some different motors. But starting in Charlotte next week, we don't have time for that anymore. We've got to be ready because every little point counts and it's all going to add up in the end. We've got to be ready for it, and that's why we were taking advantage of that in Indy.
Q. Hector, you have an advantage possibly that no other driver may have ever had. You can turn to your dad who has won this championship. What would be your primary question of your father as you go into these final six races?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Just how to keep a clear mind, how to stay relaxed, because to me that is key. Sometimes you can get wrapped up in the points and the championship, and I think it can fog your thinking sometimes and maybe slow down your reactions or maybe just throw you off your game. So most importantly just go and ask him how did you stay relaxed and keep a clear mind and stay under control under all the pressure as the Countdown goes on?
Q. Hector, as far as at your age, you can't have a load of experience with Countdown playoffs. So what is the best way for you? You as a young guy coming into the pressure that you're facing, what is the best way for you to handle it?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: I take it one round at a time. I try not to get ahead of myself, which I did that a little bit in the middle of the season, but I think I learned my lesson there. Like I say, one round at a time, stay relaxed, racing my own lane, not worrying about who is next to me, and just believing in the Lucas Oil Buhl that I'm riding because it's one hell of a machine. I know if I can ride it the way it's supposed to be ridden, that she will lead me to the championship.
Q. Not everybody gets to draw on their dad for a lot of support, and obviously, you know, a lot of experience. Can you explain how that is kind of like a special catalyst for you?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Definitely, because he's been there, he's done that. So in a way I have all of his 20 years of experience in racing underneath my belt with only three years. Because he has told me everything and he's there one step of the way. Sometimes he's even there going down a track right beside me. So definitely it is‑‑ it is definitely a good tool to have. I'm definitely going to use him to my advantage for going for this championship this year.
Q. You started the year off so strong, and sort of plateaued out. Do you feel like it's more an issue of the rest of the field catching up with you guys or do you think you all sort of lost your way somewhere?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Oh, no. Well, like you said, we started off awesome in the season, and that was kind of an unexpected thing. We knew that the class was going to be a tough one, but we were able to get those three wins. I think some of it was luck, and some of it was the performance that we had. Then we had an issue where my number one motor was hurt, and those few races it was down and we didn't have a chance to get the parts and times together, so I was running another motor that wasn't quite up to speed. Then as you can see once I got that motor back, I made it to the runner‑up in Denver and then we won in Sonoma.
Then over here in Indy, we were trying out a new combination and trying to figure some things out for the championship.
Q. Has anybody ever figured out what makes these motors, which seem to be so simple in their design and so much Billet production? What makes one so much better than another, because I know it's always been that way and it still is?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: You know, I think if we knew the answer to that question, we'd be the hero. Because we got motors and we'll build them identically, same exact part, same everything, the heads, so it's not like one guy poured it a little better than the other. Everything is 100% identical and one just runs better than the other. Why? I think nobody will ever know why.
Q. Hector, every rider has talked this season about the parity within your class. We're seeing races in qualifying hundredths, or separated by hundredths or thousandths. Is that exciting for you as a racer going in or is it a little nerve‑racking too that on any Sunday or as the case was, Monday this week, that anybody has a shot at winning?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Oh, it's very exciting. Like you said, it's even nerve‑racking because you know you've got to be on your toes because anybody can win this. Number 16 can win this year.
So, like you said, it's a little nerve‑racking because especially when you're going for the championship, it's not like, oh, I know I've got the performance on this guy because you don't. Everybody can run the numbers. To me it's made all of us better riders this year.
Whoever stays the most focused and most relaxed, luck on their side and stays consistent I think is going to be the guy who wins the championship.
Q. (Indiscernible) you have a 30‑point lead now going into the Countdown. How important is it to get off to a good start at Charlotte knowing that 30 points is not 120 points? How important is it to get off to a fast start?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: It's very important. Anything you can do to go ahead and get a head start and get a jump on those points, any little point that we can get. My goal is to like get as many points as possible in Charlotte and all the races. Because you never know what's going to happen down the road. A motor breaks or something happens and for whatever reason you can't make the round. So if you can make a point buffer just to make up for any little thing that can happen, it's very important. Definitely that is the goal to do well as quickly as possible, because I feel like if you're able to do that, hopefully that should help you carry out in the end.
Q. As a young guy, obviously, you can relate to other young people, so what would be your best advice for young people in general? You're a successful young guy, so what would be your best advice for young people to be successful?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Just never give up, whatever it is. Whatever you find yourself doing, whatever you like, whatever your goal is in life, to never give up. Just have little goals as stepping stones to get you towards your main goal and your final goal at the end. So stay positive, set goals, and try to mark them off, at the end get the final result.
Q. Which of the tracks in the Countdown do you feel is your track? Which one are you most confident at?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Honestly, throughout the years we've done well at every track, so they all‑‑ they're all different, and they all change throughout the years. So I don't think I have one specific track that is my track or I feel like I do best at. For Charlotte, we should have some good data from racing earlier in the year, and hopefully it hasn't changed too much.
But like I said, from the weather, from cars going down the tracks, just getting a whole other year of wear and tear on them, they changed throughout the years. We have notes that go back and reference on, but it just always varies a little bit. So we just always take it one race at a time. Whichever one the motor seems to run better at, sometimes they like different airs and whatever tracks offer it for whatever reason, sometimes they run better than others. I don't know why. But it's no specific track they run better at. Sometimes they feel happy that weekend, I guess.
Q. You came so close to the championship back in 2011. What do you carry forward from that? Is there one key thing that you're going to keep in the back of your mind going forward in this six‑race stretch?
HECTOR ARANA JR.: Just staying relaxed. Trying not to let the pressure get to me. There at the end of 2011 I'd be lying if I had told you guys I didn't feel any pressure. I felt a lot of pressure especially when I got only nine points away from Eddie Krawiec. I think it got to me a little bit. I know you have people trying to help you out, and they're telling you to do this and that, and you want to win and you try to find a little extra. So sometimes you try to go and listen to them. I feel like sometimes you make a mistake because you get out of your routine.
So just keep on doing what I've been doing. Keep the same routine, try to be as consistent as possible, and just trying to stay relaxed and calm, and just being able to deal with the pressure as best as possible.
THE MODERATOR: Hector Arana Jr., thank you so much for joining us today. We'll let you get back to your afternoon, and we'll see you down in Charlotte September 13 through the 15th.
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