Author: Arana, Hector
Date published: March 4, 2011
Journal code: NDRG
Three years ago in the summer of 2008, my eldest son, Hector Jr., came to me one day in the shop and said, "Dad, I want to race." Man, my heart just dropped. I never encouraged my kids to ride at all. I was the racer in the family. I was the one taking the chances and putting myself out there. I didn't even want to think about my kids racing. Whenever the thought even came into my head, I got worried. I guess that's how a parent thinks.
I put my tools down and looked him in the eye and asked, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" And he answered right back, "Dad, I want to race."
What could I do? I guess it's flattering on one hand when your son wants to follow in your footsteps, no matter what you do for a living, but I was nervous about this. You never want to see your children in harm's way, and I've seen lots of crazy things happen in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
We had a street bike at the shop, and I told him we'd beef up the motor and get it ready for the strip so he could get some passes under his belt. I told him nothing was more important than experience, so the more passes he could make down the strip, the better he would be as a rider.
Well, as everyone knows, the summer months are super busy in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, and time flies by when you're out there competing. The whole thing about Hector Jr. riding kind of slipped my mind, maybe on purpose.
A few months after our original conversation, he came back to me and said, "Dad, the summer is over. I never got to ride." To hear him say that really hurt my heart. I realized I was denying him something he really wanted to do, just like I wanted to do myself many years ago, and I needed to let him chase his dream. I had to put my protective feelings aside and let the kid go.
We had an older Pro Stock Motorcycle motor we used for breaking in tires and testing chassis, and I told him to get it out and prep it for action. It was still a good motor, capable of running 7.30s no problem, so it was something that had a lot of power.
I talked to him a lot about the power of the bike, and how it feels to let that clutch out the first time. I tried to tell him everything I had learned over the years so he'd be as prepared as possible.
Once we got the bike together, we went out in the parking lot, and he did a bunch of burnouts and some launches. He said, "Dad, I'm ready. I can handle this. Let's go to the track."
Maybe he was ready, but Dad wasn't. I was so nervous, and I was worried. I couldn't sleep very well, but I had to look cool and calm on the outside for him.
Hector Jr. and his brother, Adam, have been helping me for years. They've grown up at the racetrack, and they've watched me make hundreds of runs. They know how to do everything on the bike, and they have probably made a million passes in their heads, especially Hector Jr. because he's the oldest. Heck, if Hector Jr. wasn't ready to give it a try, no one was.
He was putting a lot of work into his first test, and I was real proud of him. I was still nervous as can be, and I tried not to think about it too much, but I knew it was time to let him ride the thing to see how he would do.
Ever since that first test to the latest test we had a few weeks ago, Hector Jr. has done nothing but impress me. When you're going down the strip at the speeds we reach, you have to think fast and make decisions in splitsecond increments. I have seen a great track awareness with Hector Jr., and that makes me really happy. I could even say I'm a lot more relaxed now, and I find myself watching his runs with an eye on the bike more than the rider. He's doing great.
My wife, Grace, doesn't seem as confident as I am, and the tension in the Arana household has been pretty high lately. I know she's nervous because she isn't saying very much. Hopefully, as he continues to ride, she'll feel better about it all. For now, she has stayed on me about triple checking every little thing on his bike - she hasn't asked me about my bike at all!
It's definitely more work having two bikes, but we've set the trailer up so that Hector Jr. basically has his own complete setup, so he can do all the things he needs to do to his bike by himself. I plan on working out of the trailer, and he'll work outside under the awning.
At first, we set both of our Lucas Oil Buells up exactly the same so we could share as much data as possible, but he has his own style of riding, so we've had to make some adjustments. I think as the season goes along, we'll learn the best way to work together, and I'm sure we'll fall into a natural rhythm.
And when we race each other that first time, well, all bets are off. I know Hector Jr., and I know he'll try to Tree me. His instinct will be to show Dad up. But maybe the old dog has a few tricks left for him. I know it's going to be an interesting race.
Hector Arana Sr. is the rider of the Lucas Oil Products Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle.