HERBERT OPTIMISTIC GOING INTO NHRA RACE AT BRAINERD, MINN. BRAINERD, Minn. - Doug Herbert figures the relaxed atmosphere of this Minnesota resort area is as good a place as any to return to the NHRA Winston Series win column. It's no...
HERBERT OPTIMISTIC GOING INTO NHRA RACE AT BRAINERD, MINN.
BRAINERD, Minn. - Doug Herbert figures the relaxed atmosphere of this Minnesota resort area is as good a place as any to return to the NHRA Winston Series win column.
It's no coincidence that the Colonel's Nationals just happens to be scheduled Aug. 20-22 at Brainerd International Raceway.
The Cherryville, N.C.-based driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster hasn't won a race, or a round of racing, in the last four events. His two earlier victories and two runner-up finishes have kept him involved in what has become the most competitive Top Fuel championship chase in the series' 25-year history. With eight races remaining, every driver in the top 10 is still in contention.
Herbert, for example, slipped from fifth to seventh place following a close first-round loss to Tony Schumacher at Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 8), but he's only 93 points behind pacesetter Mike Dunn, 918-825.
"We need to go to Brainerd and win some rounds of racing," Herbert said. "We've got to be going to at least the semifinals of every race if we want to stay in contention. It's time for us to dig down deep and throw everything we have into this battle for the next eight races.
"We're certainly not out of it. It's so close and nobody has been able to dominate, and it doesn't look like anybody will be able to do that the rest of the way. I think we definitely have some performance left in our Snap-on dragster."
Herbert was disappointed following his loss to Schumacher - by two-thousandths of a second - at Sonoma that he took a trip to Roy Hill's Driving School at Rockingham, N.C., two days later.
"I thought it was getting to the point where I needed to hone my starting-line skills," he explained. "I drove a super comp dragster and left the starting line about 50 times. I don't get that kind of opportunity with my racecar because we can't run it like that. It would take me about eight or nine races to make that many runs.
"I just wanted to get focused on what I need to do at the line. I think it will help. I know it can't hurt."
Herbert had a slight start-line edge against Schumacher, .502-.504, which he built to almost six-hundredths of a second by the time the two dragsters reached half-track. Then the tires began to spin.
"The car spun the tires and the engine dropped a cylinder at the same time," crew chief Dick LaHaie reported. And the car's performance slipped, too, enabling Schumacher to poke the nose of his dragster ahead - by about four inches - at the finish line. Herbert's time was 4.664 seconds at 304.67 mph to Schumacher's 4.660 at 318.84 mph.
"I didn't see him or hear him until the finish line," Herbert recalled. "Then he came booming by me and I didn't know who won. His finishing speed definitely won that race."
The dropped cylinder produced Herbert's slowest speed of the weekend after running 314, 313, 312 and 310 mph during qualifying. "It's like we say, there are a million ways to lose a race and only one way to win," added Herbert.
Herbert, LaHaie and the Snap-on team will begin looking for that winning way when qualifying begins Friday at 2 and 6 p.m. and continues Saturday at noon and 4 p.m. Eliminations start Sunday at 11 a.m.
Doug Herbert Facts:
Age: 31 Hometown: Cherryville, N.C.
Career Final-round record: 3-6 1999 Final rounds: 2-2
1999 Wins: Houston, April 11; Columbus, Ohio, June 13
Quickest time: 4.551 seconds (3/99, Gainesville, Fla.) Fastest speed: 321.65 mph (4/99, Houston)