Las Vegas: Doug Herbert preview

LAS VEGAS, March 29, 2001 - If Doug Herbert preferred playing basketball instead of drag racing, his 6-foot-4, 225-pound body might've been perfect for a shooting-guard position. Had he chosen football, he could've been a tight...

LAS VEGAS, March 29, 2001 - If Doug Herbert preferred playing basketball instead of drag racing, his 6-foot-4, 225-pound body might've been perfect for a shooting-guard position.

Had he chosen football, he could've been a tight end.

But Herbert grew up in a drag racing family and he wanted to race. He doesn't mind that he's the tallest and heaviest Top Fuel driver on the National Hot Rod Association circuit - although he is attempting to shed a few more pounds to round off at 220.

    His new Snap-on Racing dragster, like all the others before it, was built 
to accommodate him and he had very few problems.  Until now.

It's not his body that's causing the trouble. It's his size 13 left foot.

"Our new Murf McKinney dragster has added safety features around the driving compartment and the area where the clutch and gas pedals are is narrower than on my old cars," Herbert explained. "I didn't have any place to put my foot when I took it off the clutch. Normally, you wouldn't even think about it, but for years I've pushed my left foot against the firewall.

"I wasn't comfortable in the car so the crew built me a footrest and I should be ready to go when we get to Las Vegas."

Herbert, from Cherryville, N.C., will be competing in the Summitracing.com Nationals, April 6-8 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And, judging from his most-recent performance, he just might be running up front.

While he was trying to figure out just what to do with his left foot, Herbert had one of his best outings in 18 months at Houston Raceway Park (March 23-25). In the new car's second race, he had qualifying times of 4.612, 4.599 and 4.583 seconds (which put him fifth in the starting lineup) and ran 4.607 and 4.631 in eliminations.

"The car ran good all weekend," he said. "We didn't hurt anything and the car went down the track. We plan to keep making little changes to the combination and hopefully we'll keep going in the right direction. I think our performance is right there with the top cars."

    Herbert was defeated in the quarterfinals by Doug Kalitta, who used a 
starting-line advantage to take the close win.  Kalitta's reaction time was 
.487 to Herbert's .507.  Kalitta won with a slower time, 4.647 to 4.631.

The addition of the footrest should help Herbert's starting-line routine at The Strip. He won't have to think about where to put his foot. "It won't take long for me to get used to it," he added.

"That's a great track in Vegas," Herbert said. "The racing surface obviously hadn't been used before last year and it was green, but it should be really good this year. I hope we can do something good."

He lost in the first round of the inaugural event at The Strip last year.

Although he hasn't been to a final round in 2001, Herbert is off to a decent start. He's qualified third, fourth and fifth in three races. He was 12th in the Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. - which was delayed by rain until April 21 - in the new car's first outing.

By the time the Snap-on team got to Houston, crew chief Larry Frazier and tuning consultant Wes Cerny found the tune-up the racecar liked. Herbert, who didn't run quicker than 4.609 last year, has already run in the 4.50s three times.

Finally, after three of 24 Winston Series events, Herbert is sixth with 145 points. If he's done that well while waiting for a place to put his foot, imagine what's ahead when he does get comfortable in his dragster.

-J. Sherk

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Doug Kalitta