GAINESVILLE, Fla., April 13, 2001 - It isn't often Doug Herbert goes to a National Hot Rod Association event knowing which driver he'll meet in the first round. Thanks to a very wet Sunday, March 18, Herbert knows Kenny Bernstein will be in...
GAINESVILLE, Fla., April 13, 2001 - It isn't often Doug Herbert goes to a National Hot Rod Association event knowing which driver he'll meet in the first round.
Thanks to a very wet Sunday, March 18, Herbert knows Kenny Bernstein will be in the opposite lane when the rain-delayed Gatornationals race is completed April 21 at Gainesville Raceway. The fields had been set following Saturday's (March 17) qualifying.
"We'll have two runs Friday (April 20, during a test-and-tune session) to get our Gainesville tune-up ready to race Bernstein," said Herbert, driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster. "We're going in there thinking we can beat him."
Bernstein, meanwhile, is currently the hottest dragster driver on tour, thanks to an impressive win at Las Vegas (April 8).
"We ran good at Vegas during qualifying," Herbert added, "but the conditions were a little different on race day. The weather was cooler on Friday and Saturday. The sun came out on Sunday and conditions changed. The track was hotter than it had been and we've had trouble getting the car to go down hot tracks without spinning or smoking the tires."
Herbert lost to Mike Dunn in the quarterfinals at Las Vegas - 4.573 seconds to 4.659 seconds - when his tires lost traction and spun down track. "We might've beaten him if we hadn't spun the tires," Herbert said, "because I left on him." Herbert had a two-hundredths of a second head start, .498 to .520.
Crew chief Larry Frazier and tuning consultant Wes Cerny expect warm conditions at Gainesville, so they'll be looking for a winning combination during the tune-and-test.
In the season's first five outings, Herbert has run well at every track except Gainesville Raceway. His elapsed times have improved from 4.608 seconds at the season-opener (Pomona, Calif.), to 4.589 (Phoenix), 4.583 (Houston) and 4.582 (Las Vegas). He added his fastest speed since 1999 at Las Vegas, 319.14 mph. And then there's Gainesville, where his 4.714-second pass was only 12th best, his lowest 2001 start. Bernstein qualified fifth at 4.631.
"The changing track conditions have messed us up this year," said Herbert. "We have to learn to deal with them because the weather's going to be getting hotter"
The completion of the Gatornationals kicks off one of the busiest parts of the schedule. Herbert and the Snap-on crew will be racing at Bristol, Tenn. (April 29) and Atlanta (May 6), making it three successive races. After a week off for Mother's Day, the series features back-to-back-to-back outings at Englishtown, N.J., Topeka, Kan., and Chicago.
Herbert is seventh in Winston Series points with 199. Dunn leads with 348.
Gatornationals television coverage is scheduled for Sunday, April 22, 11 p.m.-1 a.m. (EDT)