Indianapolis Herbert seeks U.S. Nationals win

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 24, 2000 - Two-thirds of the millennium's first drag racing season is in the books and Doug Herbert really hasn't found much to cheer about . . . yet. His Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster hasn't been to the finals and...

INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 24, 2000 - Two-thirds of the millennium's first drag racing season is in the books and Doug Herbert really hasn't found much to cheer about . . . yet.

His Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster hasn't been to the finals and he enters the U.S. Nationals, Sept. 1-4 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, ninth overall. A year ago at this time Herbert had two wins, two runner-up finishes and was eighth in points, but less than 100 behind the leader.

"Obviously we haven't been able to challenge for the championship this year but we do feel like our car has been running good lately," said Herbert. "Maybe we can turn that into a U.S. Nationals win."

The Cherryville, N.C.-based driver has had two opportunities to capture the coveted title. He wound up second to Ed McCulloch in 1992 and Pat Austin in 1993 in a pair of back-to-back showings. Since then, however, Herbert hasn't won a round of racing at NHRA's most prestigious event. He did not compete here from 1994-97, didn't qualify in 1998 and lost in the opening round in 1999.

"We'd like to get back to the kind of performance level we had in 1992-93," he remarked. "We were on our way to a round win last year when the engine came apart at about 1000 feet."

Mechanical problems have plagued Herbert and crew chief Larry Frazier this season. Most recently, a broken blower belt knocked him out of a quarterfinal match against Andrew Cowin at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 20). Herbert left the starting line first, then the engine dropped a cylinder and the belt went flying.

"We were ahead of him until the belt came off," he commented. "We probably still could've beaten him if the belt hadn't come off." Herbert was timed in 5.025 seconds at 226.167 mph to Cowin's 4.859 at 278.63.

"Those are the kinds of things that hurt us," added Herbert, who did register one of his quickest elapsed times in 2000 (4.661 seconds) and one of his highest qualifying positions (fourth) at Brainerd. "We have been missing some racing luck most of the season but we've made progress with the tune-up. We changed the fuel system and cylinder heads and I think we are going in the right direction. We actually had two blower belts break on us at Brainerd. We'd switched brands but we're going back to our old ones for Indy."

Herbert did beat Luigi Novelli in the first round, ending a streak of three successive opening-round losses. The Snap-on dragster left first and won with a slower time, 4.783 at 315.86 mph to 4.776 at 307.23.

"It was a little scary going into eliminations after getting only one good run during qualifying," Herbert said. "We did have a problem with the cylinder heads, but that's something we can easily fix before Indy. We're more comfortable knowing the car should run good."

Herbert and the Top Fuel field will have five qualifying attempts, one more than usual at the other 22 Winston Series events, to get the combination ready for Labor Day eliminations.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Andrew Cowin , Luigi Novelli