Seattle: Doug Herbert preview

Herbert, McCulloch Ready to Run with Less Nitro in the Tank Snap-on Dragster's Driver Considers Canopy over Cockpit KENT, Wash., July 20, 2004 - During the formative years of NHRA's Funny Car category, Ed "Ace" McCulloch racked up a lot of ...

Herbert, McCulloch Ready to Run with Less Nitro in the Tank
Snap-on Dragster's Driver Considers Canopy over Cockpit

KENT, Wash., July 20, 2004 - During the formative years of NHRA's Funny Car category, Ed "Ace" McCulloch racked up a lot of special-event victories at what was then Seattle International Raceway. He lived in Forest Grove, Ore., and that made him a "hometown" favorite in the Seattle area.

McCulloch won 18 national events in Funny Car and four in Top Fuel, but none came in the Northwest. He did finish second twice, 1976 and 1980.

McCulloch, now tuner and team manager of Doug Herbert's Snap-on Racing Top Fuel team, will attempt to rectify the lack of wins when the CarQuest Nationals unfolds at Pacific Raceways, nee SIR, July 23-25.

It's a challenge because McCulloch will be dealing with several important rules changes, including a five-percent reduction in the percentage of nitromethane fuel available (90 to 85 percent). It is one he's had ample time to mull over.

"We know how to compensate for the fuel situation and we put some runs on our new clutch combination in Denver (Saturday and Sunday), so we have some ideas about what we need to do at Seattle," McCulloch said. "But there isn't much of a tune-up we can use in Seattle that we used in Denver. We just leave all that stuff on the mountain when we come back to sea level.

"One of the good things is that everyone else will be in the same boat," he added. "Our first run with the 85-percent rule will be in the first qualifying session Friday. It will be a crapshoot when it comes to figuring it out."

Herbert, meanwhile, was enthusiastic about the potential the car's performance displayed at Denver.

"We made a bunch of changes going into Denver and we made one good run," said Herbert of his 4.757-second qualifying run that put him in the No. 4 starting position, "but it was enough to show us we are going in the right direction with those changes.

"We haven't done well in Seattle and I don't really know why," he added. "I'm excited. I think we can be contenders."

Herbert advanced to the quarterfinals at Denver. He took an off-track run into a sand trap at the end of the track when the car's brakes failed after he won his opening round. The Snap-on crew repaired the slight damage in time for the second round.

This is the second race in the traditional Western Swing that features stops at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.

The four all-important CarQuest Nationals qualifying sessions are scheduled at 4 and 7 p.m. Friday and noon and 3 p.m. Saturday. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Is Cockpit Canopy Coming Next in Top Fuel?

While some drivers experienced problems with the new roll cage cover that made its debut at Denver, Herbert had no trouble. Part of the reason may have been his decision to use a higher windshield to deflect the air over the cockpit.

While the new piece worked well, Herbert would've preferred a canopy.

"I wanted to install one because I think the canopy would be much safer," he commented. "We would've had to install a fire system and fresh air system, just like the Funny Cars use, and that would make the car 15 to 20 pounds heavier. We can't afford to add that much weight and be competitive . . . unless NHRA passes a rule to allow using the canopy" and adds the extra weight to each car.

In case you didn't know, Herbert is one of the biggest Top Fuel drivers at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Most of his rivals are in the 150-175-pound range.

"The only difference with using the higher windshield was that I had to look through the plastic to see the tree (starting lights)," Herbert said. "That's not out of the ordinary. Funny Car drivers look through a piece of plastic, too."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert