Doug Herbert Denver Preview

DENVER - The second half of the NHRA Winston Series season is about to unfold and Doug Herbert likes the view from where he stands in the Top Fuel standings. He'd like it even better if he were one rung higher. Herbert trails Mike Dunn - who...

DENVER - The second half of the NHRA Winston Series season is about to unfold and Doug Herbert likes the view from where he stands in the Top Fuel standings. He'd like it even better if he were one rung higher.

Herbert trails Mike Dunn - who has led from the opening race - by 59 points, 782 to 723, as the dragster challengers prepare for the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, July 16-18. There really isn't much breathing room between Herbert and the next four drivers. Sixth-place Larry Dixon is 71 points behind Herbert.

"That's why it's important for us to get a good start at Denver," said Herbert, driver of the Snap-on Racing dragster. "We had our 'fun' race last week (the non-points Winston Showdown at Bristol, Tenn.), now it's time to get tough, go to Denver and step on it.

"I think (crew chief) Dick (LaHaie) has a tune-up figured out for running in the light air at Denver," Herbert added. "He's pretty good up there."

Indeed, LaHaie has been successful in the mile-high altitude. He tuned Scott Kalitta to back-to-back victories there in 1994-95, the years Kalitta won Winston Top Fuel championships. Herbert, meanwhile, was runner-up in 1993.

This is a critical part of the season for the title contenders. The Mile-High Nationals race begins NHRA's traditional western swing, albeit altered from its past form. Instead of being three races in three weeks, it's been changed to three races in four weeks. Stops in Seattle (July 30-Aug. 1) and Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 6-8) follow.

"We've had a good first half of the season," Herbert said of his two wins and two runners-up, "and we want it to continue."

Herbert lost in the first round of the Showdown, an event that matched Top Fuel dragsters against Funny Cars for the first time. He qualified eighth (4.692 seconds at 316.82 mph) but was upset by tire smoke and Cruz Pedregon in round one. Rain on Saturday postponed completion of the race until Sunday and track conditions weren't what they had been prior to the rain.

The Snap-on dragster smoked the tires on the run, slowing Herbert's performance to a 6.023 at 182.33 mph. Pedregon won with a 5.170 at 262.03.

"Racing Funny Cars was interesting," said Herbert. "Now we're ready to get back to serious racing."

Racing begins at Bandimere Speedway with qualifying at 4 and 8 Friday, noon and 4 Saturday. Eliminations Sunday begin at 11 a.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Scott Kalitta