Son shows that father doesn’t always know best in historic NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle win

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JOLIET, Illinois – A week ago at Epping, New Hampshire, a husband and wife met for the first time in a final round in National Hot Rod Association history when Angie Smith defeated husband and defending world champ Matt in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.

Sunday at Route 66 Raceway, another significant milestone occurred with the first father-son final in PSM history when father Hector Arana Sr. met Hector Arana Jr. in the final round of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals.

When the two Miami natives and Buell-powered PSM riders reached the finish line, Hector Jr. proved he had learned the lessons well his father has taught him over the years, defeating Hector Sr. in an exciting final round.

In winning his first race of 2014, his first at Chicago and his seventh career PSM triumph overall, 25-year-old Hector Jr. covered the 1,000-foot racetrack in 6.925 seconds at 193.93 mph, while the 55-year-old Hector Sr. had a 6.946 second run at 192.82 mph.

In a twist of irony, Arana Jr. had to give credit to his crew chief and team owner for setting up his bike for the win.

That crew chief and team owner? None other than Hector Arana Sr.

“We won this race together,” Arana Jr. said. “I wouldn’t have been able to be here without him (his father). It’s a team win and a dream to come true to be able to make it to the finals together and race against my dad.

“That’s what we’ve been striving to do for four years and now we’ve finally accomplished that. Now we’ve just got to do a brother-brother final (Junior and younger brother Adam Arana, who failed to qualify for Sunday’s final eliminations).”

In addition to it being Arana Jr.’s first final round of 2014, that also was the case for Arana Sr.

“It means that I’m going to have to go home and have to work harder,” Arana Sr. said with a laugh when asked what losing to his son meant. “It was something I was looking forward to for a long time, and to my surprise, I wasn’t nervous.

“I was relaxed, I was calm and already felt like a winner. I did my job at the starting line, but (his son) had the better bike.”

In the bigger picture, it was the ninth meeting between the father and son over the last four seasons, but all eight prior faceoffs came in earlier rounds of other races.

With Sunday’s win, Arana Jr., who is in his fourth season on the PSM national tour and was No. 2 in the 2011 season, now leads his father 5-4 in head-to-head matches.

“I’m just glad we got a Wally (victory trophy),” Hector Jr. said. “I loved coming to the final round against my dad, but it’s just not the same when you beat him, not like beating those other guys out there.

“We won, our team won and (primary sponsor) Lucas Oil won.”

Grace Arana, Hector Sr.’s wife and Hector Jr.’s mother, showed who she was pulling for afterward.

“It was exciting, but I really kind wanted my husband to win,” Grace Arena said, noting that Hector Sr. has not won a PSM race since winning five of his six career victories en route to earning the series championship in 2009.

That’s a 74-race winless streak now.

When asked if losing to his son somewhat softened the blow of remaining winless, Arana Sr. was quite clear with his answer.

“No, not even close,” he said with a smile. “But it’s a win for the team. We’ve worked hard around the clock for the last couple of weeks.

“It’s what we needed to now keep going and dig in deeper and keep going forward. It’s especially for me, what I needed, to get my confidence back and to be a winner and to get to the finals and get my Wally (race winner’s trophy).”

In a twist of irony that extended back to last week’s final between Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the elder Arana beat Matt Smith in Sunday’s quarterfinals and then Angie Smith in the semifinals to set up the historic match with his young son.

Andrew Hines holds the points lead in PSM, with a 21-point advantage over the weekend’s No. 1 qualifier, Eddie Krawiec.

Hector Arana Jr. is third in the standings, 52 points behind Hines, followed by John Hall and Matt Smith.

Hector Arana Sr. is in seventh place, 216 points behind Hines.

 

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

1.  Hector Arana Jr; 2.  Hector Arana; 3.  Shawn Gann; 4.  Angie Smith; 5.  Eddie Krawiec; 6.  Andrew Hines; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck; 8.  Matt Smith; 9.  Chaz Kennedy; 10.  Jerry Savoie; 11.  LE Tonglet; 12.  Steve Johnson; 13.  John Hall; 14.  Craig Treble; 15.  Jim Underdahl; 16.  Michael Ray.

 

Final round-by-round results from the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Angie Smith, Buell, 6.969, 192.36 def. John Hall, Buell, 7.013, 192.52; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 192.80 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.026, 191.57; Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.952, 192.82 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.955, 193.52; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.908, 194.66 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 21.800, 29.90; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.908, 194.41 def. Craig Treble, Buell, 7.022, 190.57; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.873, 195.36 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.976, 193.38; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 194.83 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.973, 191.35; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.886, 195.11 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.917, 193.10;

QUARTERFINALS — Gann, 6.985, 192.08 def. Pollacheck, 7.014, 190.16; H. Arana, 7.050, 192.93 def. M. Smith, 7.038, 191.27; Arana Jr, 6.894, 194.66 def. Hines, 6.966, 190.30; A. Smith, 6.950, 192.91 def. Krawiec, foul;

SEMIFINALS — H. Arana, 6.919, 193.82 def. A. Smith, 7.016, 191.21; Arana Jr, 6.888, 194.97 def. Gann, 6.958, 192.41;

FINAL — Arana Jr, 6.925, 193.93 def. H. Arana, 6.946, 192.82.

 

Updated point standings (top 10) following Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1.  Andrew Hines, 536; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 515; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 474; 4.  John Hall, 371; 5.  Matt Smith, 361; 6.  Scotty Pollacheck, 341; 7.  Hector Arana, 320; 8.  Michael Ray, 302; 9.  Angie Smith, 300; 10.  Steve Johnson, 249.

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”