Indianapolis: Doug Herbert preview

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 25, 2003 - You didn't find Doug Herbert's name atop the NHRA Top Fuel test-results page last week, and that was just fine with him and his Snap-on Racing team. It's far more important to be there on Labor Day, Sept. 1. That's...

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 25, 2003 - You didn't find Doug Herbert's name atop the NHRA Top Fuel test-results page last week, and that was just fine with him and his Snap-on Racing team.

It's far more important to be there on Labor Day, Sept. 1. That's when they crown the winner of the 49th annual U.S. Nationals, drag racing's oldest, richest and most prestigious event, Aug. 29-Sept. 1, at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Herbert has a pair of U.S. Nationals runner-up finishes on his racing resume, but they came in 1992-93, not long before he and Snap-on paired up, but too long to go without final-round visits in this storied event.

"Back then, I was younger and when I got to the finals in my first two U.S. Nationals, I kind of thought it wouldn't take long to get back there again," said Herbert, a Cherryville, N.C., businessman/racer. "But I was wrong. This is a big race; one that I'd like to win . . . but I want to win every race.

"I had two chances to win it and I screwed up," he added. "I'd like to correct those mistakes."

Herbert believes he has a much better opportunity to do so this time around because he spent Tuesday and Wednesday at IRP as tuner Wes Cerny tweaked the racecar's tune-up.

"We made six launches, and all were early shutoffs," Herbert pointed out. "Wes wanted to work on the car's performance on the first half of the run. He kept making changes, sorting out different things, and he learned something on every run.

"It's a good thing we tested. I believe we will run much better at the U.S. Nationals because we put in the time on the track. Making the changes Wes did were much easier to do testing than during the race."

Cerny, who joined the team at the last event in Brainerd, Minn., called the tuning shots on the Snap-on dragster during the last five races last year and Herbert finished with a flourish. He took home his first two No. 1 qualifying efforts (Chicago and Las Vegas) and went to the semifinals in four of the five outings.

"I'm pretty happy with the way things are going," Herbert said. "If we can improve on the next four runs (all during U.S. Nationals qualifying) as we did in the six during testing, then we should be pretty good."

While Herbert's immediate goal is to qualify well and win at Indy, his long-range desire is to finish in the POWERade Series top five. He arrives in eighth place with 735 points, but only 74 points separate him from No. 5 Cory McClenathan's 809.

Qualifying for Top Fuel and Funny Car begins Friday night at 7:30, and continues with 1:45 and 7:30 p.m. sessions Saturday. Sunday's times are noon and 4 p.m. and Monday eliminations commence at 11 a.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Cory McClenathan