By Lee Elder
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17, 2018) – Hector Arana Jr. reset the NHRA’s national Pro Stock Motorcycle speed record Saturday and remains the only member of the category’s 200 MPH club.
Arana Jr., who became the first rider in history to surpass 200 during Friday’s second round of qualifying for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, broke his own record Saturday on his Buell with a pass clocked at 201.01 mph. His elapsed time was good enough to start fourth in the field when eliminations begin on Sunday.
Andrew Hines, whose best qualifying pass was timed at 6.773 seconds, will start first in PSM. Eddie Krawiec and Joey Gladstone qualified second and third, in that order. Arana Jr. appeared to have set his bike up for high speed instead of getting a quicker elapsed time. The qualifying order is determined by elapsed time. Arana Jr’s best time was 6.806 seconds.
Arana Jr’s record and his qualifying results beg the question about shooting for the prestige of cracking the 200 MPH mark first versus concentrating on the normal effort to generate the quickest time. One gets your name in every drag racing record book that will ever be printed. The other helps you prepare for the race and that’s where the track to the championship goes straightest.
Hines said, “Coming here, it was just a progression of taking our notes from last year and just making sure we are making the proper calls at the right time.”
Greg Anderson qualified best in Pro Stock with a pass of 6.522 seconds. It was the first pole of the season for Anderson, but the 94th of his career. Alex Laughlin and Chris McGaha were next.
“It was a little bit tougher today, a little bit warmer and a little bit more humid,” Anderson said. “We were a couple of hundredths behind but we still have a great tuneup for tomorrow. We think the weather is going to be exactly like this.”
Clay Millican topped the Top Fuel charts at 3.708 seconds, followed by Steve Torrence and Antron Brown. Several of the nitro category teams had trouble making complete runs Saturday. The track temperature for the final qualifying round was 125 degrees, possibly a contributing factor.
Millican said, “Tomorrow we must do better than what we did today. … We’re still not on that consistency train. We don’t want to be that one-hit wonder.”
Jack Beckman topped Funny Car with a pass of 3.911 seconds. Courtney Force was next and Robert Hight was third.
“We didn’t have the best car on Saturday,” said Beckman. “Today’s conditions are going to be a lot more like the conditions we race in tomorrow. We just didn’t give credit to the sunshine out there.”
John Force, whose dramatic open to the season has included three fiery engine explosions including the one he drove through Friday, qualified for the field despite shutting his engine off just after the halfway point of his run. The engine was shut off early deliberately as the team searches for the reason for the engine trouble. Force will start 15th in the 16-car field with a time of 4.281 seconds.
Sunday’s eliminations start at 11 AM, local time.