DUPUY ARRIVES IN INDIANAPOLIS WITH KATRINA ON HIS MIND INDIANAPOLIS (September 1, 2005) -- Doug Herbert needed someone to get him fired up about racing this weekend at the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. OK, wait. Herbert needed someone to...
DUPUY ARRIVES IN INDIANAPOLIS WITH KATRINA ON HIS MIND
INDIANAPOLIS (September 1, 2005) -- Doug Herbert needed someone to get him fired up about racing this weekend at the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. OK, wait. Herbert needed someone to get him MORE fired up than usual. After all, this is the biggest race of the season and perhaps Herbert just didn't have that loving feeling for Indy this year.
That was before Wayne Dupuy joined the team as crew chief of the Snap-on Tools dragster team in June.
"I've been to the final round of the U.S. Nationals twice, but that was in 1992 and '93 and I think over the years I just have learned to think about it like any other race," Herbert said. "Then Wayne shows up and you're now allowed to do anything but worship Indy. I've never known anyone with such passion for one race. It's amazing and it's infectious and I've never been so excited to race at the U.S. Nationals."
Then Hurricane Katrina hit Dupuy's home state of Louisiana and things changed all over the place. There was a long stretch when Dupuy didn't know how his family was doing, where they were or what had happened. Then a phone call late Tuesday night changed everything.
"My mother and brother's homes are likely gone," Dupuy said. "From what we've heard and seen on TV, it doesn't look good at all. But that is the least of our concerns right now because they are all safe and healthy. I've never felt so happy to get a phone call like I was Tuesday night. When my sister finally called and said the entire family was safe and in Houston, I felt like a new person. It's real scary not knowing anything and not being able to do anything about it. I don't like feeling helpless in my work life and it's a million times worse when you have that helpless feeling when it comes to the safety of your family."
Dupuy arrived in Indianapolis late Wednesday night and is already at the track today, helping the Snap-on Tools team set up for this weekend's big race. There are five rounds of qualifying for the U.S. Nationals, which starts with a night session on Friday at 6:15 p.m. followed by two sessions on Saturday (1:15 & 6:15 p.m.) and two more on Sunday (11 a.m. & 3 p.m.). Final eliminations are set for 11 a.m. on Labor Day.
"Right now we're all just thrilled that Wayne's family is safe," Herbert said. "It's been like a roller-coaster the last few days. We're were all so pumped for Indy and working as hard as possible to get the new car ready, then we find out that Wayne doesn't know where his family is and how they're doing. I think once the phone call finally came in, he was instantly relieved. But it's going to be tough. He'll be pulled emotionally this weekend on thinking what he can do to help the family and what he can do to win."
Herbert and Dupuy have one Indy stat in common: they each have two final-round appearances, but still don't have the trophy that has eluded them so far. Dupuy earned runner-up finishes in 1999 (with driver Jim Epler) and 2003 (Darrell Russell) while Herbert scored a runner-up finish in 1992 (against Ed McCulloch) and 1993 (Pat Austin).
Dupuy said the race is now at the top of the list as far as priorities -- only because nothing can be done in Louisiana right now.
"The Jefferson Parish sheriff told everyone to stay away from their properties until next Tuesday," Dupuy said. "Then they will have about two days to collect any personal belongings before they will be asked to leave again for up to three months. There is going to be a lot of work that has to be done to get everyone back up on their feet, and it's going to take months before New Orleans and the surrounding areas can recover.
"But for now, this weekend, I want to do whatever it takes to win the U.S. Nationals. The team has worked so hard and it would be an incredible feeling to finally win this race. Now that I know my family is safe, I can focus on winning. The Dupuy family is going to have to start over in our home state of Louisiana, but we won't start that long process until next week. For now, we all just want to win the U.S. Nationals."
ESPN2 will televise the event throughout the weekend including special coverage. Qualifying can be seen on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (ET), noon (ET) on Sunday and 10:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. Two segments of NHRA 2Day will air this weekend, 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday and Monday. Final eliminations will start at noon (ET) on Monday, continuing at 8 p.m. that evening.