Hector Arana Sr. has seen a lot in his 29 years of racing Pro Stock Motorcycles in NHRA. But he’s never seen anything like this.
Or, rather, it’s what he didn’t see Sunday at zMAX Dragway.
During the semifinals of the NKG Spark Plugs NHRA 4-Wide Nationals, Arana Sr. tried to stage his EBR against son Hector Arana Jr., Andrew Hines and Angie Smith – but didn’t see his stage lights come on.
So he tried again. And again. And again. Nothing.
The Christmas Tree did come down for the other three riders as a stunned Arana Sr. sat at the starting line. Eventually, NHRA discovered that the bulbs didn’t come on in Arana Sr.’s lane and ordered a rerun.
“That second round, that’s new to me,” Arana Sr. said. “I tried to stage, and I saw everyone staged. I don’t like to stage last either, so I went in – and nothing’s happening. So I roll in some more, and nothing is happening. I thought, ‘Well, let me push this bike through,’ and I pushed it and nothing’s happening.”
His experience told him something was wrong, but he kept trying to stage.
“I looked and said, ‘Wait a minute, something is going on here,'” Arana Sr. said. “I look across and can see where the beams are. I look at the bike and where I’m at and go, ‘Whoa, pretty soon I’m going to stage with the rear.’
“So I backed out again and don’t see my light blink, so I backed out enough and go forward. Then I go a little bit more, and as I turn around to wave to (an NHRA official) to point to the Tree, they threw the red light on me and I saw the light flash and everyone take off.”
Though he was furious and confused, Arana Sr. kept the bike where it was to show NHRA officials he should have turned the stage lights on because he was in the beams.
“I wasn’t going to move from there, Arana Sr. said. “I was going to show them, ‘Hey, I didn’t do nothing wrong. I couldn’t stage the bike without a light.”
NHRA soon realized the problem and quickly called for a rerun.
“They made a call, and it was a fair call,” Arana Sr. said. “I guess we set another record for us: First time ever that this happened, a rerun. The outcome was the same.”
That’s because a little more than 45 minutes later, Arana Sr. turned on the red light in his lane by leaving too soon. He said he wasn’t worried about what happened earlier, though he was surprised because Smith, in the lane next to him, also red-lit.
“No, I couldn’t believe I did that,” Arana Sr. said. “I was calm, I was really calm. I saw double-red and I’m like, ‘Don’t tell me something happened to the Tree again.'”
Smith could have been angry at the turn of events, because she had originally advanced to the final round by finishing second to Arana Jr. But she was eliminated in the rerun by the red light.
“Yes and no, but at the end of the day, NHRA did the right thing to rerun it because across the board, it wasn’t fair if we got to run and he didn’t have a chance to stage his bike,” Smith said. “It was bad on all of us, really. None of us made good runs. They did the right thing, the politically right thing to do.
“You can look at it both ways. There is one statement that if the Tree comes down, it’s a race, but then there’s another statement that says whatever.
“It is what it is. I was excited to be going to the finals, and then it’s like, ‘OK, we’re going to rerun it,’ so they gave me another opportunity to get there, and I went up there and red-lit. It is what it is, and we’ll go to Atlanta.”
Hines made the best of the rerun by advancing to the final, where he ended up winning the race.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019