Columbus: Doug Herbert preview

Doug Herbert, Snap-on Top Fuel crew determined to rebound at Pontiac Excitement Nationals COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2003 - It was a sinister plot more suited for Freddie Krueger than Doug Herbert. The night before two thousand Snap-on Tools ...

Doug Herbert, Snap-on Top Fuel crew determined to rebound at Pontiac Excitement Nationals

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 9, 2003 - It was a sinister plot more suited for Freddie Krueger than Doug Herbert.

The night before two thousand Snap-on Tools employees descended on Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., Herbert's Snap-on sponsored Top Fuel dragster exploded an engine on his final qualifying attempt, preventing him from qualifying for Sunday's eliminations. It also put a black exclamation point on a maddening month of May for the Cherryville, N.C., driver.

Yes, not qualifying did provide the affable, but visibly disappointed, Herbert the opportunity to devote more time to the guests, which he did, but had he had his druthers, he would've been racing. The rare DNQ, his first in 59 races, served to galvanize the efforts of Herbert, crew chief Ron Douglas and tuning consultant Jim Brissette.

"We wanted to find out what caused the engine to blow up like it did," Herbert said. "We need to find whatever it is so that doesn't happen again. The crew has meticulously examined every part, wire, plug, hose and line.

"We discovered something that might be the problem, but it's in an area that can't be tested by machines. We'll make some new parts and they'll be on the engine when we get to Columbus (Ohio)."

National Trail Raceway in nearby Hebron is the site of the 39th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals, June 13-15, and the place where Herbert has collected two of his seven career NHRA victories, including his first one in 1993. His other came in 1999 and he was runner-up at the venerable track one year ago.

"We are anxious to get there and go racing again," said Herbert, "and going to a track that has been pretty good to us also helps. We want to redeem ourselves."

Douglas and Brissette have been chasing an internal gremlin for several races but haven't been able to locate it. The car's consistency waned after Herbert was runner-up at Bristol, Tenn., in April. And then came May, with races at Atlanta (May 4), Englishtown, N.J. (May 18), and Topeka, Kan. (May 25), where he qualified at each stop but did not win a round or racing. The Route 66 Nationals ended for Herbert on May 31, along with his qualifying streak.

"I'll guarantee you there are about a thousand ways to lose at one of these races," added Herbert.

The setback did drop him to seventh (491 points) in the congested Top Fuel POWERade Series standings. The good news is Herbert is only 63 points (at 20 points per round win) away from fourth place with 13 more races to be run.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert