Herbert confident going into season opener POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2004 - This is the best time of the year for Doug Herbert and the rest of the Top Fuel drivers who will soon begin chasing their dream of winning the National Hot Rod ...
Herbert confident going into season opener
POMONA, Calif., Feb. 12, 2004 - This is the best time of the year for Doug Herbert and the rest of the Top Fuel drivers who will soon begin chasing their dream of winning the National Hot Rod Association's POWERade championship.
"We're all tied for first right now," pointed out Herbert, "but it won't be long before that all changes."
The annual series opener, the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals, Feb. 19-22, at Pomona Raceway, launches the title race, one Herbert believes he and his Snap-on Racing team will be part of throughout the 23 events and next nine months.
"I feel better about starting this season than I have for years," Herbert said. "Everything we've done since the Auto Club Finals (Nov. 9) has been very positive."
That includes hiring Ed "Ace" McCulloch as tuner/team manager and throwing out all the engine parts and starting over. Herbert doesn't want a repeat last year's disappointing ninth-place finish.
"Our performance last year was embarrassing," said the Cherryville, N.C., driver. "I let myself down, Snap-on down and the fans down and I didn't want a repeat of that in 2004. Things have gone well and we are very optimistic this year. Everybody on the team is anxious to start racing and excited about the changes Ed made."
The car's showing during preseason testing reflected the positive outlook, despite the fact McCulloch - who spent three-plus years tuning Funny Cars - was reacquainting himself with the dragster's characteristics.
Herbert's best elapsed time was 4.57 seconds, and that could've been better, he said. "We had probably our quickest time to half-track on that run and I shut it off early. Ed used testing to learn as much as he could about how this car reacts and what the new cylinder heads, manifold and blowers are capable of.
"We made five runs on our last day of testing at Phoenix (Feb. 10) and learned something on every run," Herbert continued. "We made 16 runs over the weekend didn't break one part. That's real good. Not only were they good runs, but they were consistent. The crew worked well together and we're all happy to be working with Ed. We're about 100 miles ahead of where we were last year at this time."
McCulloch was pleased with the outcome, too.
"Ed decided it would be more beneficial for us to skip the test at Tucson and concentrate on getting ready for Pomona," said Herbert.
"Winning the championship is going to be tough because there are a lot of good cars out there," he continued. "We're going to have our work cut out for us, but we aren't planning to back down."
"We had a good test session," McCulloch commented. "Our best run was 4.57 seconds and the best numbers were 4.52 and 4.53, so it's not like we're in left field. We'll get organized so we'll be ready to race next week."
Herbert, owner of a successful performance parts business, has had some memorable moments on the Pomona Raceway asphalt. In 1992, he was the first driver to run in the 4.80s with a 4.880-second time at the Winternationals. A year later, he was the second driver to exceed 300 mph (301.60) and the first to run that fast during eliminations. And in 2001 he captured NHRA's 50th Anniversary event contested under the lights in July.
Herbert has seven top 10 finishes, including five in a row. He was seventh three times (2001-2002, 1999) and ninth four times (2003, 2000, 1992-93).
Winternationals qualifying is scheduled Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and noon and 3 p.m. Saturday. Sunday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.