Doug Herbert Don't even try to make him sit still for more than 30 seconds. It would be a losing battle. Doug Herbert's mind whirls so quickly, he makes a three-ring circus act look lazy. That's how he has always been and it stands to...
Don't even try to make him sit still for more than 30 seconds. It would be a losing battle. Doug Herbert's mind whirls so quickly, he makes a three-ring circus act look lazy. That's how he has always been and it stands to reason that is the way he will always be. In addition to being the driver of the Snap-on Tools dragster in NHRA POWERade competition, Herbert, 37, also has his hand in the business world. He owns and operates Herbert Performance Parts out of a 100,000-square-foot facility in Lincolnton, N.C. as well as Always on the Edge Sportswear, a t-shirt design, print and production outlet. When he's not working and driving more than 300 mph in the Snap-on Tools dragster, Herbert takes it easy with a Lear Jet. Yep, he has an airline transport pilot's license too and makes a regular habit of flying. To be honest, it's a way to get him from the office to the track--more quickly. Oh yeah, one more thing. He and wife Sonnie have three very active kids: Jon (15), James (9) and Jessie (7). In this Q&A, Herbert talks about how he manages his world, what it is going to take to challenge the Top Fuel category for victories and a championship and why he can never slow down.
Q: What made you get into racing in the first place?
HERBERT: When I started out I just liked fast cars and I thought that hot rods were cool. I was always enthusiastic about race cars and going fast. I used to go to Orange County Raceway to see the likes of Don Garlits and that was amazing. I always thought that was something I wanted to do someday and luckily, I got the chance. I'm still living a dream.
Q: Why did you decide to get your pilot's license?
HERBERT: I always had an interest in flying and Sonnie's dad had an airplane and I kept thinking that if I got my license, he would let me fly it. He didn't have his license, so I went out and got one. At about the same time I got tired of racing so I sold all my racing equipment and for a year I didn't do anything but fly. That was in 1989 and that got old real quick. I love to learn and learning to fly was so exciting. Everything you do is new and it kept my attention. But eventually the learning process slows down and the fun slows down because there isn't a lot of learning going on because it turns into a routine. The fun is in the learning. So I got back into racing. I bought some racing stuff and started alcohol racing in 1990.
Q: What is the best thing about Top Fuel racing?
HERBERT: Just the excitement of it because there isn't anything else like it. All these NASCAR guys around here pay attention to Top Fuel because Top Fuel racing is the top of the hill, it's the best, fastest, most powerful, and loudest form of racing. It goes perfect my personality.
Q: What is the thing you least enjoy about Top Fuel racing?
HERBERT: The expense because no matter what, you are putting money out of your own pocket every year to make it all work. I love Top Fuel racing, but it's not cheap.
Q: You have managed to keep Snap-on Tools as your sponsor since 1992 when they first helped out with just tools. Now they are your primary sponsor. What have you done to maintain that relationship year in and year out?
HERBERT: You give them more than what they expect in return for their sponsor dollars and if you can do that, they are happy. I think they expect me to go to all of the races and run the car. Period. I do that, plus a million other things to keep them happy. We take several Snap-on people to dinner throughout the year. The regional offices usually have a sales contest of some kind and the winner gets to hop on the plane with Sonnie and I and we all fly to dinner and have a great time. In Houston we picked them up at the airport right by Houston Raceway Park and we flew to New Orleans. We had a limo pick us up and take us to Ruth Chris Steakhouse. It was a great time and it's going out of the way to meet a bunch of Snap-on dealers and employees that makes the sponsor relationship work. It's fun for us because we meet a lot of good people along the way.
Q: If you weren't involved with racing from any aspect including your performance parts store what would you do for a living?
HERBERT: I would be a pilot. I think I would be a corporate pilot. Flying jets is cool.
Q: The Snap-on Tools dragster was in the final round at the season opening event in Pomona, what has kept the team from being in the final round since?
HERBERT: I think the only thing kept us from being back in the final is we haven't been quite as lucky as we were in Pomona. Our performance is improving at almost every race. It's just a matter of time before we're back in the final and next time we need to win.
Q: In 2004 you were 3-5 going into the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, TN. This year you have already won twice as many rounds going into Bristol (6-5). What is the biggest difference between this year, and 2004?
HERBERT: The biggest difference has been the guys on the team. They have an incredible desire and want to win. If you work on these cars it has to be more than just your job because it's too much work. You don't punch in and punch out eight hours later. You work much harder than a normal job and you have to be dedicated to make the team successful. You need desire and a strong work ethic to make a team win. If you are just here for a paycheck, it won't work. You need to be passionate about your job and most of the guys on my team have that and that's why we're already better than last season.
Q: What changes have been made for this car and team to be more competitive?
HERBERT: It's a million little things that add up to be something. We have a new crew chief (Rob Flynn) working with Jim Brissette (tuning consultant) and the guys have made a difference. We know there are a million things you can do wrong on a race car and only a few ways to make it work. We have the right guys on our team and they are eliminating mistakes every day.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about racing at Bristol Dragway this weekend?
HERBERT: Bristol is first place I ever won a race (in IHRA competition in 1992). I'm excited about going there and winning again.
Q: What do you want to accomplish this season?
HERBERT: Our first goal is to win a championship. We are going to try as hard as we can to do that. Regardless of whether we are able to do that or not, we still need to win races. We need to improve on last year's eighth place finish with one victory. The first thing we need to try for is the championship. But if we stumble and fall short on that goal, we have a few other things to accomplish before the season is over.
Q: What are your career goals?
HERBERT: Win an NHRA Top Fuel championship to go along with the four IHRA championships we won in the 1990s.
Q: How do you manage your time between your racing, your business and family?
HERBERT: It's hard and to be honest I don't think there are enough hours and days and time to get everything done. It seems like there is never enough time, but luckily I have the desire to win and do well in everything and that's what keeps me moving as quickly as it takes to make it all work. I just have that personality that wants to win all the time. If I'm playing checkers, I want to win. If we have the boat out on the lake, I don't want to get beat. I'm ultra competitive in everything I do whether it's racing or business. That's what keeps me motivated. When I finally do decided to relax, I'm usually spending time with the kids and they love motocross racing. Then I want them to win so I guess it never really stops.
Q: If you could predict your dream race, where would you be racing and who is in the other lane?
HERBERT: My ideal race would be to be racing in the final round at the last race of the season in Pomona. We're going into the final round against the guy who is right there with you in the points chase. If you win, you get to take home all the marbles. That's the ideal race for me.