BAYTOWN, Texas, April 9 - A smile still comes to Doug Herbert's lips when he thinks about his victory at last year's O'Reilly Nationals. There are plenty of reasons why - like the $100,000 he claimed for winning the special Winston No Bull...
BAYTOWN, Texas, April 9 - A smile still comes to Doug Herbert's lips when he thinks about his victory at last year's O'Reilly Nationals. There are plenty of reasons why - like the $100,000 he claimed for winning the special Winston No Bull bonus, and the fact it was his first NHRA Top Fuel victory in almost six years. "This will be the first place we've gone this season where we won last year," said Herbert, driver of the Snap-on Racing dragster. "That's a good feeling. I think we are getting a handle on our tune-up just in time to go back there. We're looking forward to it."
Herbert would like to repeat, obviously, and get back into the Winston Series title chase when the 2000 O'Reilly Nationals visits Houston Raceway Park, April 14-16. He comes to town in ninth place with 152 points. Herbert added three more victories and two runner-up finishes to his 1999 final-round total after leaving Houston Raceway Park and knows this would be a great time to begin another run to the top of the standings. He and crew chief Larry Frazier have been looking for a consistent combination since NHRA introduced its 90 percent nitromethane fuel rule this year, and Herbert believes the final pieces of this intricate jigsaw puzzle are just about all in place.
"We are getting things sorted out," Herbert said after a wild first-round loss at the inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday. "We made some changes after (the race in) Gainesville (March 19) and the performance seemed to come around. Then we went after the clutch at Vegas and it seemed to work good in the first round." Herbert didn't have an opportunity to make another elimination attempt because the Snap-on dragster's right rear tire came apart during his race against Larry Dixon.
"I was ahead of him when the tires began spinning down track," Herbert recalled. "Then the tire let go and knocked off the engine's fuel lines. We were fortunate we didn't lose any points for an oil down because the tire caused the accident." The car did skid on its right rear tire rim as Herbert deftly steered it to a stop. "The car wanted to go left, so I let it go," he said about the car drifting from the right into the left lane. "I knew Dixon was already past me. I didn't want to steer it too much because I didn't want to bend the frame. We only have a few days before going to Houston. "Our race win there last year is still at the top of my list of drag racing highlights," Herbert added. "I think we have enough of a handle on the Houston Raceway Park track conditions that was should be in good shape" when qualifying begins Friday.
At Las Vegas: Qualified: No. 11, 4.765 seconds at 313.22 mph. First round: Larry Dixon, 4.783 at 317.27 def. Herbert
Race winners: Kenny Bernstein, Top Fuel; Jim Epler, Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Pro Stock.
Doug Herbert Facts:
Age: 32 Hometown: Cherryville, N.C. Career Final-round record: 5-11 1999 Final rounds: 4-2 1999 Wins: Houston, April 11; Columbus, Ohio, June 13; Topeka, Kan., Oct. 4; Memphis, Oct. 10