Pomona: Doug Herbert preview

Snap-On Racing Report: Herbert Very Optimistic About His Top Fuel Title Chances Going Into Winternationals POMONA, Calif., Jan. 30, 2002 - Whether you're whipping up a special dessert or tuning a Top Fuel dragster, consistency is a prominent...

Snap-On Racing Report:
Herbert Very Optimistic About His Top Fuel Title Chances Going Into Winternationals

POMONA, Calif., Jan. 30, 2002 - Whether you're whipping up a special dessert or tuning a Top Fuel dragster, consistency is a prominent word in both cooking and drag racing vocabularies. For example, Doug Herbert hired Johnny West as co-crew chief and tuner for his Snap-on Racing team this season with the goal of attaining consistency in the car's performance. Aunt Martha, meanwhile, always seeks the perfect consistency for the meringue on her lemon pie.

Well, West doesn't claim to be a chef, but he does think he has the right recipe to bring the consistency Herbert and the team are looking for during the 2002 NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series. And they'll begin to find the answers when the 23-race campaign kicks off with the K&N Filters Winternationals, Feb. 7-10, at Pomona Raceway.

"The main thing we want to do is get the consistency that it takes to be a contender instead of being someone who can just qualify decent," said Herbert. "That was my main goal."

West, whose drag racing roots run all the way back to 1972 when he first started campaigning his own Funny Car, thrives on a consistent tune-up. It was a necessity, the result of a meager budget, that made consistency vital to his, and the engine's, survival. And that's the way he tunes today.

"We want to get the car running consistently, then we can make it go quicker and faster," West said. "I won't do whatever it takes to win the round. I want to come back (after each run) and still have a real sound racecar.

"I feel real good about this year," continued West, who joined veteran co-crew chief Larry Frazier on the team. "Doug has a good group of people here. I'm looking at winning multiple races. We just have to be in the top three or four all the time and we'll have a chance of winning races."

Those words sounded sweet to Herbert, whose solid runs during preseason testing only validated West's approach.

"We went down the track pretty good while we were testing at Tucson (Jan. 26-27)," Herbert noted. "That was something we didn't do well last year. I told Johnny we were going down the track but it was running slow. He said that wasn't a problem; that it will go faster. He wanted to make full runs so he could make sure his tune-up was going to be okay. We'll see how fast we can go at Pomona."

Herbert, an Orange, Calif., native who relocated to Cherryville, N.C., scored his first victory at Pomona at last season's NHRA 50th Anniversary event on the way to a seventh-place finish. If he and West reach their potential, they're predicting a serious run for the championship.

"This could be even better than my 1999 season (when Herbert won four races in six final rounds)," Herbert continued. "Right now, we're tied with everybody else for No. 1, but hopefully, when it comes down to the last couple of races (this year), we'll still be up there."

The Snap-on dragster's quickest test run at Tucson was 4.657 seconds at 311.27 mph. He added runs of 4.706 at 302.96 and 4.677 at 299.33.

"One of the first things Johnny wanted to do was see if some of the things (on the combination) he changed worked with our setup," said Herbert. "The car was going down the track at Tucson at the hit of the throttle and that's very encouraging. Johnny made some more changes on the 4.70 run, but the car didn't seem to like it."

Consistency, however, remains the most important feature in West's tune-up.

If, as he and Herbert hope, the car runs very quick and very fast throughout the 2002 season, West might have discovered a recipe of championship proportions.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert