HECTOR ARANA JR. ON FATHERHOOD: "I WANT SOFIA'S DADDY TO BE A WINNER"
Racers understand the term "off-season" is truly a misnomer, for there isn't much time "off" at all. If anything, the time between the last race of one season and the start of the next one is busier than the race schedule.
So when you ask a racer what they did in the "off-season," they'll often look at you funny and ask, not at all sarcastically, "What off-season?"
But it was a little different for Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Hector Arana Jr. Quite a bit different, in fact.
On Dec. 20, 2018, about a month after the season-finale in Pomona, Arana, and wife Nicole welcomed their first child, Sofia, into the world.
Now, that's an off-season.
"I would have to say this has been the best one, the most special," Arana Jr. said. "I don’t look forward to the off-season. Sometimes, yes, it's nice to have a little break so you can stay home for a while and get caught up on everything. But that never happens because you're trying to make new stuff. You never really do get caught up.
"This year, I was sad when the race season was over, but I was very excited and happy at the same time because I knew that I was going to get to meet our child. It's been great."
Fatherhood has been great for Arana Jr., too, even if he's still getting used to it. He's only had 10 weeks, after all.
"Fatherhood, I feel like it honestly hasn’t set in yet," Arana Jr. said. "It's the greatest thing in the world that I come home, I see her and give her a kiss on her forehead. I feed her, I help Nicole as much as I can when I'm home because she's home with her. I feel like it's really going to set in when she gets old enough to where she can interact.
"I’m looking forward to that. I feel like at that point, when she starts calling me 'daddy,' that's really when it's going to set in."
While Nicole, the daughter of past Pro Stock driver/owner John Nobile, has stayed at home with Sofia, Hector Jr. has remained in his full-time job with Curtiss-Wright n Farmingdale, N.Y. That doesn't mean, however, that he's shirked some of his fatherly duties.
"Listen, I've changed diapers," Arana Jr. said. "I'm probably a diaper every other day."
He learned how to change diapers while Nicole was pregnant so the first time he changed one on Sofia was not big deal.
"The diapers aren't that bad yet," Arana Jr. said. "At the hospital, I was doing the diapers more than Nicole was because she was recovering. I was there learning and helping do all the diapers. Even when (Sofia) first came home, I was helping out, I kinda stayed to the side. It hasn't been that bad.
"I’m sure when she starts to eat real food and things are going to start to get a little smellier, I might have a different thought about changing a diaper. There's definitely been times when I just grab Sofia and take her and stick her under the sink and rinse her off because there's way too much stuff going on down there."
In the weeks before Sofia was born, Hector and Nicole picked out names for a boy or a girl, but they didn't want to know the sex of the baby. That made the birth that much more of an experience, though giving birth is clearly an emotional time for parents already.
"We didn't know what we were having until she was born, so that was exciting," Arana Jr. said. "The whole time Nicole was pregnant, she was 'baby.'"
But immediately after birth, she became Sofia.
"You see the head and you see the body, and you're like, 'Oh, my God,'" Arana Jr. said. "The doctor literally raises her up and puts her right in my face and he's like, 'What is it?' 'It's a girl!'
"'It's Sofia!' Then you start crying and all that. It's great. You have to experience it to really understand."
Arana Jr. will soon learn what it's like to be temporarily separated from his daughter, as the PSM season kicks off with the Gatornationals this weekend, with Arana Jr. racing the Lucas Motorcycle Oil EBR. Nicole and Sofia will remain at home while he races, but if all goes well, Sofia will make the trip to Charlotte at the end of April.
Fatherhood hasn't changed Arana's perspective on racing. If anything, it's sharpened his desire to win.
"It honestly gives me that much more fire, that much more wanting to win," Arana Jr. said. "I want to Sofia's daddy to be a winner. I want her to say, 'Oh, my daddy's the best.' There's just that much more drive to be the best – for her."