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Here he comes, Mr. U.S. Nationals . . .

With strikingly white teeth and a grin that never relaxed from his 22-year-old face, Hector Arana III almost looked like a newly crowned beauty-pageant queen.

Clutching his special-edition 60th Anniversary pewter Wally statue like Miss America would drape a bouquet of roses on her arm, the Pro Stock Motorcycle manof the hour stood before reporters Monday evening at Lucas Oil Raceway as winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, like his father Hector did just two years earlier.


And if he looked a bit shy and elated and unsure of what to do, it's understandable. This was the rookie Pro Stock Motorcycle rider's first professional bike victory and it came on drag racing's most prominent stage in only his ninth event.

"It has not sunk in on me yet," Arana III said. "This is the biggest race of the year, and I did it in my rookie year. It's a hometown event, and all my family was here. It doesn't get any better than this."

With the $20,000 winner's payout, Arana III strengthened his bid for the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award for the NHRA's top rookie. He's competing with close buddy Vincent Nobile, the Pro Stock driver who's a two-time winner (at Houston and Norwalk) and two-time runner-up (at Las Vegas and Englishtown, N.J.).

"He'd better watch his back. I won the U.S. Nationals," Arana, of Milltown, Ind., said only half-joking after beating alligator farmer Gerald Savoie, of Cut Off, La.

He first set home Angie Smith, then in maybe one of the match-ups to watch as the Countdown unfolds, Arana beat LE Tonglet, last year's U.S. Nationals champion.

Tonglet used this victory as a springboard to launch a phenomenal end to his 2010 season, grabbing the series championship and the rookie of the year honors. Arana said his plan is to do what Tonglet did.

He might, for he has learned all of his father's positive habits -- and learned from his own rookie mistakes.

For example, after finishing as runner-up at Brainerd, Minn., in the race before this one, Arana III said, "We slipped and didn't look at the weather and got lost on the tune-up, which cost us the win," Arana Jr. said of the Brainerd race. "We were on top that whole weekend. This time, we made sure we stayed on top of the weather.


"We got lucky and were able to hit the tune-up in the first round," he said. "Then we just maintained that. We made slight, little adjustments to keep doing those 60-foot times. We watched the weather as we progressed throughout the day."

Jim Underdahl was Arana's semifinal victim, before another rookie, Jerry Savoie tried but couldn't stop the Arana momentum. Despite Savoie's outstanding .006-second reaction time, Savoie's 7.005-second, 189.36-mph effort wasn't enough. Arana won with a 6.867-second elapsed time at 192.60 mph.

"I'm feeling awesome," dad Hector Arana, the 2009 U.S. Nationals and Full Throttle Drag Racing Series champion, said. "I'm proud to see what my son has accomplished. I knew from the get-go that once he found his way, you can't stop him.

"He's got something that I don't even have: that passion and the patience to stay calm. That's what it takes in this sport. I knew once he got comfortable and confident and feels one with the bike, he's on."

Now Dad wants to give his son a run for race victories and another Pro Stock Bike title.

"I've got a lot of work to do," the elder Arana said. "I've been thinking, 'What do I have to do to get back running strong so I can win?' I want to win."


Some, perhaps totally unfairly, would characterize a beauty pageant as a catfight. But this NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle chase soon could become a dogfight. And the Aranas are ready.

So are the Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson rider, Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, who was to qualifier at Indianapolis and first-round loser as his bike broke at the starting line. And so is a long list of competitors

But Arana III still can't help but think of the battle he has going against pal Nobile, also a young college student eager to carve his own successful career in drag racing.

The recipient of the rookie honor will be announced Nov. 14 at the NHRA Full Throttle Awards Ceremony in Hollywood. Hector Arana III is learning quickly how to perform center stage. But first the Full Throttle Series Countdown to the Championship is set to kick off on the East Coast next weekend, Sept. 15-18 at Charlotte.

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