LAS VEGAS, March 29, 2000 - The last time Doug Herbert brought his drag racing car here, the other George Bush was still president and there weren't nearly as many people or huge casinos in this booming area. "I think it was about 1987...
LAS VEGAS, March 29, 2000 - The last time Doug Herbert brought his drag racing car here, the other George Bush was still president and there weren't nearly as many people or huge casinos in this booming area.
"I think it was about 1987 when I raced my alcohol dragster at the Las Vegas Speedrome," said Herbert. "I really don't remember much about it except we had to pit in the sand. It was pretty bad. I guess we didn't know any better back then."
Herbert definitely won't have to park his Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster in the sand this time. Bruton Smith took care of that by building the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - a state-of-the-art drag racing facility - and NHRA added the Summitracing.com Nationals, debuting April 7-9.
This is the second new Winston Series facility Smith has opened in less than a year. The Winston Showdown debuted at Bristol Dragway last July.
"A new track means every team is going to be equal when the race starts because no one's tested on the track," said Herbert. "The crew chiefs won't know what to expect. The track was pretty good last year at Bristol, so all-in-all I don't think it will too bad."
He's leaving the tuning decisions to crew chief Larry Frazier and technology advisor Dave Settles anyway.
Herbert, who began his drag racing career in southern California but moved to Cherryville, N.C., in 1989, is eighth in Top Fuel points with 120.
"Frazier and the crew are still trying to get experience with the NHRA's new 90-percent fuel rule (which limits the amount of nitromethane used)," Herbert commented. "Our Snap-on dragster has been able to run pretty good from time to time. We need to make sure we find the consistency it takes to win races.
"The car seems to run good times when it goes down the track. In the last two weeks, Frazier and the crew were able to take a long, hard look at why the car hasn't been able to get down the track all the time. We should run pretty good." Herbert, the owner of a performance parts business, ran well enough to qualify seventh at Gatornationals (March 19) at Gainesville, Fla., only to have the car lose traction in his first-round race against Don Lampkus.
"We ran 4.687 seconds (at 314.17 mph) in our last qualifying run and basically didn't change the combination," Herbert said. "It should've gone down through there again with another (4).68. It was disappointing because we needed to go some rounds to try and make up some of the points we lost at Phoenix."
When Herbert's dragster smoked the tires, Lampus drove away. Herbert had a .448 reaction time, but Lampkus didn't have any problems, winning with a 4.773 at 295.45 mph. Herbert finished with a 7.038 at 120.62 mph.
"We thought we'd be in pretty good shape," added Herbert. "The car didn't smoke the tires right away; it was down-track a little bit. It was far enough to where I was just beginning to think it was going to be a good run, but it wasn't.
"We are looking forward to going to Vegas," Herbert said. "Typically, I've done pretty good there when I'm not racing. Maybe we can go there this time and do some good at the track, too."