Madison: Doug Herbert preview

HERBERT, NEW CREW CHIEF HAPPY TO HAVE DISTRACTION LINCOLNTON, N.C. (June 22, 2005) -- Doug Herbert and his new crew chief Wayne Dupuy agree on many things when it comes to running a 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster down a quarter-mile ...

HERBERT, NEW CREW CHIEF HAPPY TO HAVE DISTRACTION

LINCOLNTON, N.C. (June 22, 2005) -- Doug Herbert and his new crew chief Wayne Dupuy agree on many things when it comes to running a 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster down a quarter-mile track.

They also agree that this weekend, more than any other on the NHRA POWERade schedule, they are happy to have a distraction for the ninth annual Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway just outside of St. Louis.

"Last year we lost our dear friend Darrell Russell at this track and no matter how much it hurts to think about what happened, it's on everyone's mind," Herbert said. "It was such a tragic loss. Darrell was the last person that we saw when we left the track that day. My wife Sonnie and my son James and I were driving out of the gate and we saw Darrell on a golf cart. We waved at him and told him to do well and we would see him later. I think about that moment all the time.

"I think having a new crew chief will help us because maybe it will help us focus on the good times we had with Darrell and keep us working on the car. We have to stay focused when it comes time to racing."

Dupuy joined the Snap-on Tools Racing team earlier this week. Dupuy was the crew chief for Russell's car last year and because of the emotional ties to the event, Dupuy is happy to have more than one thing to juggle this weekend.

"Having a new team is going to help me because I don't know how I am going to handle being at the same track where we lost Darrell and I am going to need all the distractions I can get," Dupuy said. "Having a new team that I am eager to get a good start with should help keep me focused on the race. Every day I just try to remember on all of the good times I had with Darrell and I remind myself that one day I will see him again. But I still miss him every day."

While Dupuy would like nothing more than to bury his head and thoughts in the Snap-on dragster, there will be times when he must think back to what happened one year ago.

"It's going to be very difficult being back in St. Louis and I have been trying to prepare for this for a while," Dupuy said. "Julie (Russell) is coming to the race on Saturday for the dedication of the grandstands and I think I am more nervous for her. She's been so strong but it won't be easy for any of us to be back there.

"The only thing I can do is try to block out what happened last year and focus on the race at hand. We need to concentrate on the car and act like it's any other race. I realize that's easier said than done and I think it will be real tough at times. I don't want to be back in the same city nonetheless the track, but we have to keep going."

Herbert said Dupuy is already fitting into his new role as crew chief.

"The team is already in St. Louis and they are going to strip the car down to the bare bones with Wayne and make sure everything is hooked up and he understands everything," Herbert said. "Wayne wants to make sure he knows everything about the car. We've been running his setup but he still thinks there might be a couple of things that he wants to check out."

When Herbert gets into the Snap-on Tools dragster and hooks up the HANS device and the seven-point harness, he must have just one thought on his mind: Winning.

"When you race, you know that you are involved in a dangerous sport and you accept that," Herbert said. "Whether you drive the car or work on the car, the only thing you can do is focus on the car and when it's all over, we can reflect on the weekend as a whole.

"We have to go to this race wanting to win and I think it would be extraordinarily fitting if we put Dupuy in winner's circle."

This is the only three-day night race on the schedule. Pro qualifying starts at 5 and 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Final eliminations start at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

All of the action can be seen in high definition on ESPN2 starting with qualifying between 12 -- 1 a.m. (ET) Sunday. NHRA 2Day will air at 11:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday followed by the final elimination show at 9 p.m. (ET).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert