One of the nation's most outstanding drag racers, Arlen began his career at the age of 18 at a makeshift drag strip on a section of blocked off runway at Akron Municipal Airport. Like most of the traffic at Akron Municipal, his career took off. Vanke's expertise with a 1956 Chevrolet served notice that he was a comer in drag racing, and by 1966 he was well established as one of the top stock class drivers in the country. From 1968 through 1970, Vanke was almost unbeatable. He won Super Stock Eliminator at the nationals in Indianapolis and at the Drag World Open in Columbus in 1968. The Akron native added four more titles in 1969 and in 1970 he won over 80 percent of his match races and captured all five World Championship Series point meets - the first in the National Hot Rod Association to accomplish that feat.