CLERMONT, Ind., Aug. 24, 2001 - This is, in the eyes of virtually every professional drag racer, the race they want to win. It's the U.S. Nationals and the 47th edition unfolds at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Count Doug Herbert...
CLERMONT, Ind., Aug. 24, 2001 - This is, in the eyes of virtually every professional drag racer, the race they want to win. It's the U.S. Nationals and the 47th edition unfolds at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Aug. 31-Sept. 3.
Count Doug Herbert and his Snap-on Racing team among those who would savor a victory.
Herbert has competed in only five U.S. Nationals and has fond memories of his first two, in 1992 and 1993. He reached the finals at both races and finished second twice. That's more than many drivers have been able to brag about over the years, but Herbert prefers to boast about victories, not runner-up performances.
"We haven't won a round of racing at IRP since 1993," Herbert says.
But that statistic doesn't tell the entire story. Herbert did not compete in the U.S. Nationals for four years (1994-97) and he didn't qualify in 1998. So he's actually failed to win a round in his past three visits.
However, he wouldn't mind improving his 1992 and '93 U.S. Nationals finishes just a little.
"Maybe this year we can make up for that dry spell," added the Cherryville, N.C. driver. "We'd like to win some rounds at Indy - four would be nice. We've done fairly well in the last five races this season. We don't want to go backwards now."
After struggling during most of the season's first 12 races, Herbert rallied in the next five. He won at Pomona, Calif. (July 7) and has won at least one round in the four events that followed. He is seventh in NHRA Winston Series standings with 933 points.
Herbert's goal is to finish in the top five, but he lost ground to No. 6 Darrell Russell at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 19). Herbert was beaten in the quarterfinals while Russell finished second and the difference between the two went from 117 to 168 points (1091-933) with seven races to remaining.
Herbert has already improved his performances this year at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif., tracks where he hadn't won a round of racing in the last three years. He won two rounds at Denver and Sonoma and one at Seattle in the last month.
"We had trouble going down the track at Brainerd. We need to make sure we don't have that problem at Indy," Herbert said. "We didn't have that problem in the four races before that. That's why we were winning rounds ... because our Snap-on dragster went down the track."
Herbert 's best run at Brainerd was 4.705 seconds at 314.75 mph, but it put him in the No. 8 starting position. He beat David Grubnic in the first round, then squared off against Larry Dixon in the quarterfinal pairing and Dixon won with a 4.663, the quickest run of the round.
Dixon eventually won the event, marking the fourth consecutive race that the eventual race winner has eliminated Herbert.
"We need to change our luck," Herbert added. "And Indy is a great place to start."