Bristol: Herbert looks for new streak

BRISTOL, Tenn., July 5, 2000 - As far as Doug Herbert's concerned, bigger isn't always better. Take Bristol Dragway, for example. The new, modern, year-old facility - which hosts its second Winston Showdown (featuring National Hot...

BRISTOL, Tenn., July 5, 2000 - As far as Doug Herbert's concerned, bigger isn't always better.

Take Bristol Dragway, for example. The new, modern, year-old facility - which hosts its second Winston Showdown (featuring National Hot Rod Association competitors) Friday through Sunday - is a testimony to the new millennium. It's what a racetrack should be.

Herbert, driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster, knows that. He also knows he liked the old Bristol Dragway better because he had a winning tradition there. It's true that part of the former track is about 20 feet or so under the new asphalt and cement, but that doesn't help Herbert.

"I like Bristol. I think Bruton Smith has done a great job with the new track," says Herbert. "It's just that I won my first race at Bristol in 1992 (in International Hot Rod Association competition), and I won every race there through 1997."

Herbert returned last year for the inaugural Showdown and suffered a first-round loss in this unique race that pits dragsters against Funny Cars. He'd run 4.692 seconds at 308.78 mph in qualifying and drew Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon. Herbert's car suffered traction problems and Pedregon won with a 5.170.

Funny Cars will be getting a head .28 start, almost three-tenths of a second, this time, but it's less than the .37 they had a year ago.

"That makes a big difference because we know going in what the handicap will be," Herbert said. ""Last year it changed overnight so we couldn't get used to the handicap at the starting line. Three-tenths (of a second) is about right."

Herbert does like the fact that he's guaranteed a position in the field. The rules seed the reigning Winston champion and nine other drivers, based on when they last won an NHRA Winston Series event. Herbert won four times in 1999.

"It does take the pressure off knowing that we'll be in the starting field," added Herbert. "We have been battling a problem in the tune-up we had at St. Louis (site of the Sears Craftsman Nationals, June 24). Our engine dropped a cylinder on several runs.

"We think we have an ignition problem and we are going to work with the Snap-on diagnostic department to develop new instruments to use to check the magnetos. "Oddly enough we had our worst on-track performances at St. Louis but our best luck. We went to the semifinals for the first time in four races. We hope to have solved the cylinder-dropping by the time we get to Bristol."

All those entering will get three qualifying attempts - two Friday, one Saturday. There will be a field of 12 Top Fuelers and 12 Funny Cars going into Saturday's first round of eliminations at 5 p.m. After that round, two losing drivers from each category will be reinstated into the field for Sunday's finals and a shot at the $200,000 first-place check. In order, preference will be given to the reigning Winston champions, the event's top qualifiers, then to those drivers with the quickest losing elapsed times.

Jim Bailey, driving Herbert's Snap-on dragster that runs IHRA events, will be attempting to qualify for the field.

"Sam Shockley is tuning the car now and he'll have an opportunity to make three test runs on a good track before their next race (July 14-16 at Leicester, N.Y.)," Herbert noted.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Cruz Pedregon