Las Vegas: Doug Herbert preview

Herbert looking for luck, win at Vegas. LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2003 - Lights and lucky numbers, glamour and glitz, winners and losers . . . it's all here. Dreams are shattered more often than realized when the chips are down. The only thing ...

Herbert looking for luck, win at Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, March 31, 2003 - Lights and lucky numbers, glamour and glitz, winners and losers . . . it's all here. Dreams are shattered more often than realized when the chips are down. The only thing certain is the uncertainty.

While some may find all of the above in the numerous casinos, the description also fits those who will be gathered at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 4-6, for the NHRA's SummitRacing.com Nationals. Drag racing results at times may be as capricious as those from the gaming industry.

Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert has seen luck's two sides in the first three POWERade Series races. For example, the engine in his Snap-on dragster exploded at the Winternationals last month and ended his competitive day in the quarterfinals. Two weeks ago in Gainesville, Fla., Herbert's engine expired again with a bang. This time, however, he picked up the first-round win when Paul Romine fouled away his chances by one-thousandth of a second.

When that happens, most drivers say they'd rather be lucky than good. But luck won't bring the Top Fuel championship. A driver must be good to earn it. And that's what Herbert, new crew chief Ron Douglas and tuning advisor Jim Brissette are searching for - the combination of consistency and competitive elapsed times - to make them serious challengers.

Only two drivers have discovered that thus far, so it's no surprise they are leading the pack. Larry Dixon has 286 points and newcomer Brandon Bernstein has 269. Herbert, meanwhile, ranks eighth at 140.

"We may be eighth," said Herbert, "but we're only three rounds (60 points) out of third place." John Smith is third at 198.

Herbert was the No. 1 qualifier and a semifinalist in the October race at The Strip and would like improve upon it this time. He and the crew have tested after the Phoenix and Gainesville races in search of consistency.

"I think Ron is really adapting to his role," Herbert commented. "We communicate well. He and I communicate with Brissette and the crew and to make decisions that have to be made.

"With all the changes, it means we are still developing a notebook on figuring out all the scenarios for individual track and weather conditions," continued Herbert. "At Gainesville, we ran identical 4.556-second runs during qualifying but couldn't do it on race day, when the sun was on the track later in the morning and early afternoon."

He did start eliminations from fourth position but fell out in the second round when his car spun the tires against Dennis Baca.

"I will tell you one thing," said Herbert. "We have to start running quicker and more consistently soon or the two guys that are in front are going to be too far ahead of us. We are serious about wanting to win the championship and, if we can't do that, we at least want to win some races and be in contention."

This event begins a run of seven races in nine weeks that could help define what role Herbert and his Snap-on team will be playing in the title chase. Hitting the jackpot at The Strip on race day would be a good way to start.

The other six events in the streak will be contested at Houston, April 11-13; Bristol, Tenn., April 25-27; Atlanta, May 2-4; Englishtown, N.J., May 16-18; Topeka, Kan., May 22-25; and Joliet, Ill., May 30-June 1.

-jls-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Paul Romine , Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon