Lucas Oil Buell rider Hector Arana Sr. sees this weekend's 33rd annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway as an opportunity. But he also knows it's a challenge not to be taken lightly.
The air in Denver is thinner because of the altitude, putting pressure on the moving parts of engines. Pro Stock Motorcycles will be three- to four-tenths slower in Denver than at other tracks, and teams will push their engines to the limits to get results.
Some competitors are psyched out about Denver before they even get there, but Arana isn't among them. Still, he issues a warning.
"Denver, you've got to be careful," Arana said. "It can get you. It can bite you hard if you miss your tuneup. We have notes from last year, so we've got to look at them and stay within those parameters of the math work we've done and the calculations on the clutch. We should be OK."
Arana will use a different engine for Denver, installing "Charlotte" in place of the engine he uses everywhere else, "Forrest." (His engines are named after Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas and his wife Charlotte).
But he carries a lot of momentum to Denver, as Arana has qualified first or second in the last five races, with three No. 1 qualifiers. Plus, Arana has reached the semifinals in the last four events, including the finals in Englishtown.
"I'm definitely feeling confident going to Denver," Arana said. "We have learned a lot, and we think we'll be great over there."
Denver is the first of two races in a row out West, a long-haul grind for the Lucas Oil team, as the Aranas won't return home until after the meet in Sonoma, Calif.
"We will probably be gone for three-and-a-half weeks before we get back home," Arana said. "That means we had to rebuild quickly (from the last race in Norwalk, Ohio) and get loaded up.
"The Countdown is starting pretty soon, and that's when we have three races in a row, so we have some long-range things to get ready. The summertime is crazy, but I like it."
Arana sits fourth in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points standings with four races left before the Countdown to the Championship begins.