Bristol: Doug Herbert preview

Snap-on Racing Herbert, West enthused by good test results; look for good performance in Thunder Valley Nationals. BRISTOL, Tenn., April 22, 2002 - Like an architect designing a new structure, Johnny West has been working on a blueprint for ...

Snap-on Racing

Herbert, West enthused by good test results; look for good performance in Thunder Valley Nationals.

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 22, 2002 - Like an architect designing a new structure, Johnny West has been working on a blueprint for success for Doug Herbert's Snap-on Racing Top Fuel team.

Sometimes, West acknowledges, it was more like connecting the dots. But Herbert and his tuner/co-crew chief think they see something that should return the racecar to competitive status as early as the NHRA's Thunder Valley Nationals, April 26-28, at Bristol Dragway.

The results of a test session following the April 14 event in Baytown, Texas, brought smiles and a new confidence to the Cherryville, N.C.-based crew. There's still time for Herbert to climb the Top Fuel ladder from his No. 9 position - especially since there are 18 races remaining - but progress must begin soon.

"We made some big changes to the car and the tune-up after the Houston race," Herbert said. "And we took a big step in the right direction. I feel better about the car's performance than I have for a while. We can see where we made progress."

The results, which West facetiously suggests will work if he's able to remember what they were, brought consistent elapsed times and smoke-free runs down the hot asphalt track. Tire smoke had been a tell-tale sign that the car wasn't responding to the tune-up.

"Finally, things are going in the right direction," said West, who joined Herbert after the 2001 season. "The test session went really well and the car is responding to changes down-track. We made some chassis changes and combination changes. We made four runs and the elapsed times on three of them would've been competitive enough to have won the (Sunday) race.

"Making the car run consistently has always been one of my main goals, followed by stepping up the performance," he added. "When I made changes to make it run quicker during testing, it ran quicker. It kept getting better and better. It was inspiring.

"This was a whole team effort, but a lot of the credit should go to Doug. He was involved, telling me what was going on in the car and where on the track. We looked all through last year's runs to see if we could find anything that would help."

The revelations come just in time for Herbert to begin a new win streak at the new Bristol Dragway. He won six straight International Hot Rod Association events (1992-97) at the old facility that is buried under current track, which opened in 1999. He won IHRA championships in 1992, 1996-98.

"I think we found some problems in the car," Herbert said. "I wasn't sure we'd see something good come out of testing, but we did see something good."

Herbert's qualifying results at Houston Raceway Park were consistent for the hot track - a best of 4.702 seconds that put him sixth entering eliminations, followed by a 4.733 and a 4.774. On race day, however, the tires began spinning down track, slowing him to a 4.897 at 263.72 mph in an upset loss to Mark Kinsella's 4.777 at 306.81.

Bolstered by their test results, Herbert and West hope that kind of finish will become extinct, beginning at Bristol.

In an interesting twist, Herbert advanced two places in the standings - from ninth to seventh - despite his first-round setback.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Mark Kinsella