PHOENIX, Feb. 16, 2000 - Doug Herbert began the 2000 NHRA season the way he ended 1999 - seventh in Top Fuel standings. While Herbert can't do anything about last year, he believes he has no place to go but up during the remaining 22 Winston ...
PHOENIX, Feb. 16, 2000 - Doug Herbert began the 2000 NHRA season the way he ended 1999 - seventh in Top Fuel standings.
While Herbert can't do anything about last year, he believes he has no place to go but up during the remaining 22 Winston Series events this time around. The driver of the Snap-on Racing dragster, in fact, is somewhat surprised to be as high as seventh in points after what he termed a lackluster opening-race performance at Pomona, Calif. (the Winternationals, Feb. 6).
"We were pretty concerned after the Winternationals," Herbert commented. "We didn't get down the track too many times. The only good run we made came during qualifying, but that was a 4.712 (second) run."
Herbert qualified eighth, won a tire-smoking, throttle-pedaling first-round match against Scott Kalitta, then lost to Joe Amato in the quarterfinals. Crew chief Larry Frazier and technology expert Dave Settles searched for a consistent tune-up to go with NHRA's new rule limiting teams to 90-percent use of nitromethane fuel.
Now, after several days of testing at SpeedWorld (north of Phoenix), Herbert thinks his team is ready to compete for a race win at the Checkers-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals at Firebird Raceway, Feb. 25-27.
"Testing was pretty good," said the driver from Cherryville, N.C. "We made a lot of changes and got much better results. We took a big step forward as far as the tune- up goes and we have some confidence now.
"We had been making changes and the car wasn't doing what we thought it should," added Herbert. "Once we got things figured out, the car responded to the changes we made. That was a big relief."
Herbert's Snap-on team challenged for the 1999 Top Fuel lead during most of the season. He climbed as high as second place three times in the first half of the campaign, winning twice
(Houston and Columbus, Ohio) and placing second twice in 11 races. But in the last half, he slipped into a rut, losing in the first round at seven straight events and dropped to 10th.
Then he rebounded with back-to-back victories (Topeka, Kan., and Memphis) to run his '99 total to four wins in six finals and improve his career marks to five wins in 11 title rounds. "You can't lose a lot in the first round and still contend for the championship," says Herbert, who can point to last year's titleholder as an example. Tony Schumacher won just one race but lost in the opening round only three times. "Our goal is to be consistent and win at least one round at every race. "We felt very fortunate leaving Pomona with 53 points," Herbert continued. "To be honest, we could've just as easily not qualified at Pomona. Instead, we not only qualify, but win the first round." Race winner Gary Scelzi leads the early standings with 117 points, followed by Schumacher with 95. "All-in-all, our Snap-on team seems to be starting the season on the right foot," Herbert concluded - on a path, he hopes, leads to the coveted championship.