GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 9, 2001 - In the first two NHRA races of the year, Doug Herbert ran his quickest elapsed time in 18 months. He was the No. 4 qualifier at the season-opening Winternationals and No. 3 at the CSK Nationals two weeks...
GAINESVILLE, Fla., March 9, 2001 - In the first two NHRA races of the year, Doug Herbert ran his quickest elapsed time in 18 months. He was the No. 4 qualifier at the season-opening Winternationals and No. 3 at the CSK Nationals two weeks later (February 18).
It has been almost a month since Herbert sat at the controls of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster, but he hasn't forgotten the two good outings in February . . . or the one downside. He only won one round of eliminations.
Herbert wants to rectify that situation during the Gatornationals, March 16-18 at Gainesville Raceway. He's ninth in Winston Series standings with 91 points.
"I'm happy with the way the car is running," said Herbert, 33, from Cherryville, N.C. "We've just had problems adjusting to race-day conditions. The weather warmed up on race day at both races and we didn't know what to do with the tune-up. We'd changed some parts (on the engine between races) and we didn't have any experience running the car in hot weather. That's something we can make adjustments for.
"The car was running so well I didn't want to stop for the three weeks between races, but the time off gave (crew chief) Larry Frazier and the guys an opportunity to get my new car ready for this race," Herbert added. "Hopefully the new car will help our performance, too."
The latest Snap-on dragster from builder Murf McKinney has more safety features built into the area surrounding the driver. "It's pretty easy to get in and out of," said Herbert. "We're going to try and come in about 40 or 50 pounds lighter than we were with the old car."
Herbert , 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds at the Winternationals, has been dieting to lose 20 of those pounds.
While he wouldn't call his best 2001 numbers surprising, he did say they were "unexpected." He ran 4.589 seconds at the CSK Nationals in Phoenix. His quickest run in 2000 was 4.609 seconds.
"We went to the first two races hoping we'd run OK," he commented, "and our performance has definitely been good. All last year we kept thinking that we'd run better at the next race but we ran out of races before it did. We've already shown a lot of potential. Last year at this time we were just lost."
Herbert was a finalist at Gainesville Raceway in 1999, losing to Mike Dunn. He went on to win four times - a career best - in six final rounds that season. He didn't get to the finals at all in 2000.
Herbert's last three qualifying runs at Phoenix were impressive - 4.589, 4.625 and 4.604 seconds - and came during ideal cool, overcast weather conditions. It was his most consistent showing since 1999.
But the sun came out during eliminations and track conditions changed. While 4.521 seconds was the quickest time and four drivers ran in the 4.50s during qualifying, the quickest race-day run was 4.609 seconds.
Herbert's tires lost traction during his first round pairing against Paul Romine but he won with a 4.955 at 287.72 mph. Kenny Bernstein beat a tire-spinning Herbert in the quarterfinals.
"We're competitive," Herbert remarked. "That's a great feeling this early in the season, but we need to get some round wins and move up in points. Whether it's early or not, you have to be able to go to the semifinals if you want to contend for the championship. If you don't, you aren't going to be able to catch up."
Doug Herbert Facts:
Age: 33 Hometown: Cherryville, N.C.
Career final-round record: 5-11
2000 final rounds: None
Quickest 2000 time: 4.609 seconds (6/4, Joliet, Ill.);
Fastest 2000 speed: 318.39 mph (4/16, Houston)
Career best time: 4.551 seconds (3/99, Gainesville, Fla.)
Career fastest speed: 321.65 mph (4/99, Houston)