NHRA Full Throttle 2011 Rookie of the Year battle
Arana Jr and Nobile battle for NHRA Rookie honors
story and photos by Geiger Media, NHRA, and Tim Hailey
Hector Arana Jr's Indy win launched him into the Countdown and the AAA Rookie of the Year race
The battle for NHRA rookie of the year honors heated up considerably at Maple Grove when Hector Arana Jr. won his second race of the year to equal the win total of fellow first-year pro Vincent Nobile. It's a good thing there's still three races left because it will probably take a few more rounds to completely figure out who should earn the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, given annually to the sport's top rookie. If the vote were taken today it would be close, with Arana taking a slight lead due to a few key factors -- a real chance to win the Full Throttle championship, number of low qualifiers, and the prestige of winning the U.S. Nationals.
"We've put a lot if work into this season," Arana said. "The Lucas Oil Buell has been running great, and certainly come a long way since we got started in Gainesville. For us to win Indy was huge. It's always the biggest race of the year on the NHRA schedule and has been since the sport started, and to put your name up there beside all the legends that have won that race was very humbling. And it was nice to finally win a race from the number 1 spot at Maple Grove. That was something we've been trying to do (Hector's qualified number 1 several times this year). You feel like you did all you could do at one race when you pull that off."
Vincent Nobile's Pro Stock Dodge
To date, both men have two victories in four final-round appearances. Arana won Indy and Reading, while taking second in Brainerd and Dallas. Nobile won Houston and Norwalk and was runner-up in Las Vegas 1 and Englishtown. Arana has raced in all 13 Pro Stock Motorcycle events and is 19-10 on race day, a .665 winning percentage. Nobile has competed in 19 national events in Pro Stock and has fashioned a 27-17 elimination-round record, which translates to a .614 winning percentage.
H2 and Chip Ellis at Indy
Arana's win in Reading aboard his Lucas Oil Buell V-Twin moved him to within 35 points of the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship points lead, currently held by past champion Eddie Krawiec. Considering his four final-round appearances have come in the last five races, he seems to have the momentum to challenge for the title. "If we can keep this momentum going we will have a chance," he said. "Those Harleys (of Krawiec and Andrew Hines) are always strong but we've shown time and again that we're pretty quick also. It should be a fight to the end."
Conversely, Nobile's biggest successes all came in the season's first 10 races and although he's been a solid part of the top 10 all year, his 261-point deficit to Pro Stock points leader Jason Line presents a huge obstacle for any championship aspirations he might have left. Perhaps the largest mark of distinction for Arana is his five number 1 qualifiers, gathered at Norwalk, Chicago, Sonoma, Dallas and Reading. Nobile's Mountain View Dodge has yet to lead the Pro Stock class. Fellow rookie PSM racer Jerry Savoie came out of the gate fast, staying well up in the points before dropping back mid-season and failing, so far, to get a win.
Ironically, the 22-year-old Arana and 19-year-old Nobile are great friends and Arana has been dating Nobile's sister Nicole for nearly a year. "Vince and I are buddies," Arana said. "I'm a racer and a competitive guy, so naturally I want to win. We've been giving each other a little grief over the rookie deal. I know he wants to win it as much as I do. The thing is you have the chance to win a bunch of races and championships in your career but you can only win the rookie of the year award one time.
"Nicole says she's pulling for me but maybe that's just when we're together. She might be telling her brother she's rooting for him. She's definitely in a tough spot but at the end of the year she'll be happy either way. To be honest, so will I. May the best man win."
The NHRA races next at Phoenix Oct. 14-16 for the 27th annual Arizona NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
check out Eatmyink's 2011 U.S. Nationals coverage