Doug Herbert Houston Preview

BAYTOWN, Texas - His pre-season goals were realistic. He just wanted to run well enough to become a Top Fuel contender. Well, after three NHRA races Doug Herbert finds himself on the verge of becoming a serious challenger for this year's...

BAYTOWN, Texas - His pre-season goals were realistic. He just wanted to run well enough to become a Top Fuel contender. Well, after three NHRA races Doug Herbert finds himself on the verge of becoming a serious challenger for this year's Top Fuel championship.

Herbert has already reached the finals once - at the Gatornationals, March 21, at Gainesville, Fla. - something he hadn't done since September 1993, and recorded career-best times and speeds. Plus he comes into the O'Reilly Nationals, April 9-11 at Houston Raceway Park, fourth in Winston Series points.

"We're very excited going to Houston," said Herbert, 31, owner of a performance parts warehouse in Cherryville, N.C. "Our car is running good and we aren't hurting many parts. We're building a lot of confidence between myself, Dick (LaHaie, crew chief), and the crew.

Herbert, who has one NHRA victory (Columbus, Ohio, 1993) in six final rounds, enjoyed one his finest outings at Gainesville. He qualified fourth with a career-best 4.551 seconds and followed with four good runs in eliminations - 4.663 at 307.16 mph to beat Cory McClenathan, 4.560, 312.86 to beat Doug Kalitta and another 4.551 at 316.60 to stop Larry Dixon.

In the title showdown against Mike Dunn, Herbert was timed in 4.563 second at a career-best 318.62 mph but came up 15-thousandths of a second shy of a win as Dunn ran 4.550 at 319.98. Herbert also lost out on a $100,000 Winston No Bull award. He was selected prior to the race and had he won, he would've collected the money.

"We had a good weekend in Gainesville," Herbert said. "We just came up a few thousandths of a second short of a great weekend. We know we are competitive now and that we can be players in the championship race. Dick, assistant crew chief Larry Frazier and the Snap-on guys did a fantastic job in Gainesville. We'll go into Houston ready to go. "When the car runs good, it's easier for me to make myself a better," added Herbert, who has lost 22 pounds in the last two months. "I don't feel bad about losing the weight."

LaHaie, the 1987 Winston Top Fuel champion, tuned Scott Kalitta to two straight championships (1994-95). He's in his second year with Herbert. "I hated to let that $100 grand (at Gainesville) slip through our fingers," said LaHaie, "but that was the best weekend we've had since I joined the team. We should keep getting better, picking at (the combination) here and there. Doug is driving better all the time. It's going to be fun."

        Herbert enters the event with 199 points, nine out of third and 24
out of second.  Dunn leads with 311.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Mike Dunn , Doug Kalitta , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta