Herbert optimistic going to Pomona

Pomona, Calif., January 25, 2001 - Doug Herbert likes what he sees when he glances at a calendar: February is almost here, and with it comes the beginning of another National Hot Rod Association season. Herbert's been waiting for the...

Pomona, Calif., January 25, 2001 - Doug Herbert likes what he sees when he glances at a calendar: February is almost here, and with it comes the beginning of another National Hot Rod Association season.

Herbert's been waiting for the 2001 campaign to get under way since the 2000 season wrapped up November 12. The AutoZone Winternationals launch nhra's 50th anniversary season at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway, Feb. 1-4.

"Last year wasn't a good one for us," said Herbert, driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster. "We weren't able to get a real baseline and any consistency during preseason testing and once we started racing it was impossible to get a baseline. We spent all year looking for something and never found it." The result was a ninth-place finish.

But this is a different year and Herbert is going to Pomona with a confidence that wasn't there in 2000. Preseason test sessions at Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. paved the way for Herbert's optimistic approach to the Winternationals. He's ready to build better memories during this 24-race season. Recapturing some of his 1999 success - when he won four times in six final rounds and took home a $100,000 bonus from Winston - wouldn't be a bad place to start.

"We learned some things at Tucson that will definitely help our performance," said Herbert, from Cherryville, n.c. "We had good (incremental) numbers on our runs and the car didn't shake the tires once. Even though we didn't make a full run, the car went down the track every time."

Drivers were experiencing tire-chunking problems and were advised not to run to the finish line. Herbert's best time, shutting off at approximately 1,000 feet, was 4.708 seconds at 297.81 mph.

"We were on one of our best runs in two years on our last try when i shut it off," he said. The incremental times at half-track were 3.109 seconds at 268.92 mph, which, when projected to the full quarter-mile, would have been a 4.5-second run.

"We were happy with that," Herbert continued. "We need to go out and rebound from last year's performances. We are going Pomona with a lot more confidence. We are going in the right direction, we just need to refine the tune-up and get ready for the 24 races.

"Winning the championship is always our goal at the beginning of every season, and this one is no different."

Testing, Herbert notes, is one thing. It's another to see first-hand what other drivers who covet the Top Fuel championship bring to the Winternationals. During this first race, and throughout the year, actions - along with low elapsed times and fast speeds - will speak louder than words. Larry Frazier returns as crew chief on the Snap-on Top Fuel team and veteran tuner Wes Cerny serves as a consultant.

Qualifying opens with sessions at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday and Saturday at noon and 3:30 p.m. Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m. <pre> Doug Herbert Facts: Age: 33 Hometown: Cherryville, n.c.

Career final-round record: 5-11 2000 final rounds: None

Quickest 2000 time: 4.609 seconds (6/4, Joliet, Ill.); Fastest 2000 speed: 318.39 mph (4/16, Houston)

Career best time: 4.551 seconds (3/99, Gainesville, Fla.) Career fastest speed: 321.65 mph (4/99, Houston)

-Joe Sherk

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert