Points leader Arana Jr. will keep big picture in mind during Chicago race

CHICAGO – Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. knew his season wouldn’t continue to be as perfect as the way it started with three victories in the first three races, so he is taking his struggles at the last two races in stride.

As he prepares for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, he is keeping the big picture in mind. Arana leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings by 92 points as he chases his first championship this season.

Arana suffered an engine failure in Englishtown, N.J., two races ago, and such an issue could become a season-long obstruction to many teams, but Arana is looking ahead.

“When you get a failure like that, it really sets you back,” Arana said. “It’s going to hurt us, but we’ll be ready for the Countdown to the Championship. We’re trying to keep everything together, collect as much data as possible, do some testing, and get ready for the playoffs.”

The Countdown to the Championship is eight races away, but Arana knows every race and every point counts.

“I’m hoping we can get my engine squared away in between races and be ready for it,” Arana said. “I hurt the motor in Jersey, and we kind of patched one together for Epping, N.H. She ran all right, but she’s not up there where she needs to be.”

Arana and his team will continue to work on his engine and his bike, tuning it to be as fast as possible.

“Chicago’s a good track,” Arana said. “It’s an awesome facility and it’s got a lot of bite, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Chicago is also special to Arana for another reason.

“Chicago was where I first met my girlfriend Nicole Nobile,” Arana said. “Her dad John Nobile brought her over to introduce me to her. He wasn’t thinking it would end up like this. We’ve been friends with John, and he’d been helping us out for a while. Nicole came to her first race in a while, and he brought her over.”

That was in 2010, and the two started dating a few months later.

Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals will get under way at 4:30 p.m. CDT on Friday at Route 66 Raceway. Saturday’s qualifying will start at 4:15 p.m. with Sunday’s eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 11 p.m. EDT on Saturday and the eliminations show at 9 p.m. on Sunday.

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