Hector Arana Jr. knew he needed a clutch performance at the second race of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship last weekend in St. Louis.
Arana delivered in impressive fashion and now hopes he can replicate that effort a few more times en route to his first Pro Stock Motorcycle world championship. After a near-disastrous start to the Countdown in Charlotte, Arana responded with a win in St. Louis, jumping all the way to second in the points standings.
Now in the thick of the championship picture, Arana hopes to build on that momentum on his Lucas Oil Buell at this weekend’s 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
“We’re back in the hunt for the championship,” Arana said. “That’s all that matters. We’ve got some momentum now. We went back to the shop after Charlotte and rebuilt my motor. That can always be nerve-wracking, especially since we’re in the Countdown, but we rebuilt the motor and she’s back strong. She’s running well, and she got faster and faster every run in St. Louis.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The lucrative event is third of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, finishing off a string of three straight race weekends.
Arana and his team showed remarkable resolve through this stretch after recovering from a massive bump in the road in Charlotte that nearly derailed his championship hopes right off the bat. A rough first-round loss at zMAX Dragway dropped him to fifth in points, his worst spot in the standings since the second race of the season.
Needing a far different result in St. Louis, the team pulled off an impressive overhaul in mere days, delivering a fantastic weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park. It led to a thrilling all-Arana final round where Arana Jr. picked up his second win of the season by defeating his father Hector, but the biggest round win may have come in the quarterfinals against points leader Andrew Hines. Arana ran a 6.872 to hold off Hines and by the end of the day he cut the reigning world champion’s points lead to just 34.
“After (Charlotte), I got real nervous and thought we had lost the shot to win the championship,” Arana said. “I knew we had to perform (in St. Louis) and we were able to do that. I had the perfect opportunity when I raced Andrew in the second round. I knew if I wanted to win the championship I had to beat him, and we were able to dig deep and get that round win.”
In earning his 11th career victory, Arana continued to praise his team for making the massive adjustments that led to a championship performance in St. Louis. That work ethic will again put Arana among the favorites at Maple Grove Raceway, where he was the No. 1 qualifier a year ago.
“I can’t thank them enough for doing all that work after Charlotte,” Arana said of his team. “It’s a hard-working team, and we dig deep and do what we have to do in order to move forward.
“It was good to get the win. It’s something we needed to do to get in the championship hunt and we dug deep. It was a big move to get everything figured out. It was definitely a hard road.”
The rest of the talented Pro Stock Motorcycle field will be looking for the counterpunch at Maple Grove Raceway, including points leader Hines, who won the opening playoff race in Charlotte. Other top contenders are Eddie Krawiec, who sits in third after his second straight early exit in the Countdown, Jerry Savoie, who is three points behind Krawiec in fourth, Matt Smith, Hector Arana, two-time season winner Karen Stoffer, Jim Underdahl, Chip Ellis and Scotty Pollacheck.
But Arana has no plans of letting up this weekend, especially with a championship in reach. The conditions at Maple Grove Raceway usually make for a fast weekend and Arana is definitely fine with that as he chases his second straight win.
“Reading’s always been a good race for us,” Arana said. “It’s been fast, too, so we’re looking forward to seeing some good numbers out there.”
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown has been red-hot with two wins in the Countdown, opening up a 77-point lead over defending event winner and reigning world champion Tony Schumacher. Other Countdown standouts include three-time world champion Larry Dixon, Brittany Force, J.R. Todd, Doug Kalitta, Richie Crampton, who has four wins in 2015, Dave Connolly, 2013 world champion Shawn Langdon and Steve Torrence.
Del Worsham opened up a 90-point lead over reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan by knocking off the two-time champ in St. Louis to give Worsham back-to-back Countdown wins. He’ll look to keep up his hot streak at Maple Grove Raceway, but trying to track him down are a host of championship-caliber drivers, including Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, who has six wins in 2015, 16-time world champion John Force, Ron Capps, teammate Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight.
Erica Enders has the largest points lead in any class, extending her Pro Stock points lead to 113 after a runner-up finish in St. Louis followed her Charlotte victory. The reigning world champion will look to get a step closer to a second world title in Reading, but will have to deal with the likes of four-time world champion Greg Anderson, who sits in second, Allen Johnson, rookie Drew Skillman, who picked up his first career Pro Stock win last weekend, Larry Morgan, Chris McGaha, Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Shane Gray and Jonathan Gray.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will race hard during the weekend in their quest to become winners of the thrilling event.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Oct. 2, with sessions at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Oct. 3, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Maple Grove Raceway at (610) 856-9200 or visit www.maplegroveraceway.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
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NHRA KEYSTONE NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 31st annual NHRA Keystone Nationals, the 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the third of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 298), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 548 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 1-4
THURSDAY, Oct. 1 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 2 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 3 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, Oct. 4 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Oct. 4, ESPN2 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 6 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 4, ESPN2 will re-air 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 4, ESPN2 will televise three hours of coverage starting at 8 p.m. (ET).
2014 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Rodger Brogdon, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, FC, 7; Angelle Sampey, PSM, 6; Tony Schumacher, TF, 5; Jeg Coughlin, PS, 4; Warren Johnson, PS, 4.
Top Fuel – 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12; 334.15 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’12
Funny Car – 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12; 323.97 mph by John Force, Oct. ’14
Pro Stock – 6.465 sec. by Erica Enders, Oct. ’14; 214.35 mph by Line, Oct. ’12
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. and 198.73 mph by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12
Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.899 sec. by Del Worsham, Sept. ‘15, Madison, Ill.; 330.47 mph by Matt Hagan, Sept. ‘15, Madison, Ill.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (610) 856-7200. Tickets also are available at www.maplegroveraceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the second of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 2,320; 2. Tony Schumacher, 2,243; 3. Larry Dixon, 2,161; 4. Brittany Force, 2,157; 5. J.R. Todd, 2,149; 6. Doug Kalitta, 2,139; 7. Richie Crampton, 2,133; 8. (tie) Dave Connolly, 2,127; Steve Torrence, 2,127; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,126.
Funny Car: 1. Del Worsham, 2,327; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,237; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,211; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,208; 5. John Force, 2,178; 6. Ron Capps, 2,177; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 2,123; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2,116; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,107; 10. Robert Hight, 2,099.
Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders, 2,331; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,218; 3. Allen Johnson, 2,195; 4. Drew Skillman, 2,171; 5. Larry Morgan, 2,167; 6. Chris McGaha, 2,162; 7. Vincent Nobile, 2,155; 8. Jason Line, 2,125; 9. Shane Gray, 2,117; 10. Jonathan Gray, 2,066.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,259; 2. Hector Arana Jr, 2,225; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,208; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,205; 5. Matt Smith, 2,167; 6. Karen Stoffer, 2,146; 7. Hector Arana, 2,135; 8. Chip Ellis, 2,131; 9. Jim Underdahl, 2,094; 10. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,041.