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Last season, Jimmy Underdahl made tremendous strides aboard his Suzuki Extended Protection Suzuki. The second-generation racer reached his first career final round at his home track in Brain-erd, Minnesota, and finished the season with a pair of semi-final finishes. Given his progress, it seems likely that Underdahl could be NHRA's next first-time pro winner.

There are at least a couple of rookie riders who will bear watching this season as Hector Arana Jr., the 21-year-old son of 2009 NHRA champ Hector Sr., will make his debut aboard a second Lucas Oil Buell. The elder Arana ended the 2010 season with some of the quickest runs of his career and Hector Jr. has already made several impressive runs in pre-season testing.

Also new on the scene is Gerald Savoie, a Louisiana-based businessman who recently purchased all of the parts, equipment, and bikes that were formerly fielded by the Schumacher Racing team. Savoie has also hired veteran crew chief Mark Peiser, who formerly tuned An-tron Brown and Angelle Sampey to multiple NHRA wins. Both Arana and Savoie are expected to be among the leading contenders for the Auto Club Road to the Future award that recognizes the NHRA's top rookie racer.

Evaluating his opposition, Hines was quick to note that the Arana team should be strong this season.

"Hector Sr., had a really fast bike at the end of the year and I know that Hector Jr., has already made some really nice runs in testing," Hines said. "I think that having a second bike will only help them. Overall, there's a lot of good things happening in this class and it should be really interesting to see how it all plays out. I know we're ready to get started." cn

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