Herbert ready for change at Seattle

SEATTLE, July 20, 2000 - In the last two years, Doug Herbert's frequent flyer program is about the only thing that has benefited from NHRA races here and at Sonoma, Calif. Twice Herbert has flown from his Cherryville, N.C., home (near ...

SEATTLE, July 20, 2000 - In the last two years, Doug Herbert's frequent flyer program is about the only thing that has benefited from NHRA races here and at Sonoma, Calif.

Twice Herbert has flown from his Cherryville, N.C., home (near Charlotte) to compete in the Prolong Northwest Nationals at Seattle International Raceway. Air miles earned, 4558 per year; round wins, 0.

This stop - July 28-30 - is part of what is known as the Western swing and is followed by the Sonoma race (Aug. 4-6), where Herbert's mileage is 4592 and he's still without a round win.

The driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster certainly doesn't like the box score, and he and crew chief Larry Frazier would like to make the long journey to SIR worthwhile this time around.

"I don't know what it is about those two races, but I really haven't run well at either track since I started driving Top Fuel in 1991," Herbert said. "Both tracks can be slippery and difficult to get down, especially if it's hot and sunny."

Herbert's first three trips to Seattle ended in a first-round loss in 1991, followed by two consecutive second-round exits. He didn't compete at the track from 1993 until 1998.

"About the only thing I did do was set the SIR speed record in 1992 (297.71 mph) that held for two years," Herbert added. "I think it's really time to change all that. It is possible. Until last year, Houston Raceway Park had been bad for me, but I won there and won the $100,000 special Winston bonus at the same time. Maybe it'll be Seattle's turn this year. "We have struggled at times, but we just haven't had any racing luck. I

guess we must've used up some of it last year (when he won four times in six final rounds). About the only time we've had some good luck was at St. Louis (June 24). We were a little lucky in the first two rounds."

How frustrating have things been?

One only has to look at the Mile-High Nationals, July 16 at Denver. After qualifying a disappointing 12th, Frazier made some bold moves in the engine department. The changes worked and Herbert's performance picked up.

And, 300 feet from the finish line, it appeared Herbert was going to upset defending Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher in the first round. That's about the time the engine's blower belt broke and Herbert's car lost power. He couldn't coast to the finish line quick enough. Schumacher passed him in the last few feet to get the win.

"I thought I had him," said Herbert, who left the line first (.427 to .531).

"I whipped him off the starting line and could see the finish line coming up when the belt came off. It was pretty frustrating."

Herbert's 4.898-second time was his best of the weekend. "I was happy with the way the car ran in the first round," he commented. "Frazier made a good call and we really improved the car's performance. We learned some things that should help us the rest of the season.

"We really need to get back to racing our Snap-on dragster like normal. We need to start winning some rounds and some races."

    For Herbert, in eighth place with 504 points, winning rounds is the only way he'll be
able to climb up in the standings.  "It's time we turned things around," he concluded.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Tony Schumacher