By Lee Elder
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2018) – Hector Arana Jr. became the first rider to take an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock motorcycle past the 200 mile an hour barrier during the second round of qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals Friday.
Arana Jr. collected a $10,000 prize from Denso Spark Plugs for becoming the first rider to surpass 200 mph. The teams in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle category have been over 199 mph for seven seasons but nobody could get that final fraction of a mile an hour until Arana Jr. did it today.
The Gatornationals has long been among the NHRA’s premiere events and it is the same track where Kenny Bernstein became the first to exceed 300 mph in a Top Fuel car 1992. For drama and performance, the place has been tough to beat and Arana Jr. got his share of both.
“I did not think this was a good run,” said Arana Jr. “I was just getting down the track because we needed data.”
He got his data and a time slip that detailed his 6.937-second, 200.23 mph run. Arana Jr. is qualified 10th going into Saturday’s second day of qualifying. The team’s effort was aimed at the top speed rather than elapsed time. After all, ten grand is a nice prize.
Arana will be the initial member of the Denso Spark Plugs Pro Stock Motorcycle 200 MPH club. In addition to Arana’s award, the next three riders to eclipse 200 will split $10,000.
Eddie Krawiec led the PSM riders in qualifying with a 6.785-second pass Friday. Greg Anderson finished the day on top of the Pro Stock standings at 6.522 seconds. Jack Beckman had the best run of both Funny Car sessions, 3.911 seconds. Clay Millican posted the quickest time among Top Fuel cars, 3.708 seconds.
John Force’s car suffered a catastrophic engine explosion during the second round. The car’s body was destroyed. Force drove the car to a safe stop after the explosion. Force, the 16-time Funny Car champion, has experienced at least one major incident in each of the first three races this season. He said later that he thought his crew had found the issue that has caused the engine failures.
“I really thought we had it,” Force said. “The first round, I was going to 500 feet. That time I was going to 800 feet, whether I made the show or not. By the way, did I make the show?”
Force is in the show, for now. His first-round pass was good enough to keep him in.
The mystery surrounding Force’s struggles were amplified by Courtney Force and Robert Hight, driving John Force Racing cars, qualified second and third, respectively.
Millican said he thought his car would be quick just before he put its nose on the starting line.
“I got excited because I saw Grubby (crew chief David Grubnic) turning knobs,” Millican related. “He leaned in the car and said he was trying to slow it down.”