HERBERT, SNAP-ON RACING TEAM WOULD LIKE TO GO OUT A WINNER DURING NHRA AUTO CLUB FINALS AT POMONA, CALIF. POMONA, Calif. - When the sun goes down on Sunday, Nov. 14, the NHRA's 1999 season will be going with it. Doug Herbert, for one, will be...
HERBERT, SNAP-ON RACING TEAM WOULD LIKE TO GO OUT A WINNER DURING NHRA AUTO CLUB FINALS AT POMONA, CALIF.
POMONA, Calif. - When the sun goes down on Sunday, Nov. 14, the NHRA's 1999 season will be going with it.
Doug Herbert, for one, will be sorry to see the season end because it has been his best, in terms of wins, final rounds, performance and standing. At the same time, however, he believes there is room for improvement in 2000.
"This has been a great year," said the driver of the Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster. "It is the best (NHRA) year I've ever had."
Herbert, who began the season with one win and five runner-ups, won four times and finished second twice in 1999. Once as high as second in points, he comes to Pomona Raceway for the Auto Club Finals, Nov. 11-14, in fourth place with 1249 points, but only 53 behind No. 2 Gary Scelzi and 42 away from No. 3 Joe Amato. Only Amato has more wins (five) in the 21 previous races.
"I've had some success at Pomona in the past," said Herbert, a Southern California native who now lives in Cherryville, N.C. "I ran the quickest time in the sport (4.880 seconds) at the 1992 Winternationals and became the second driver to run 300 mph at the 1993 Winternationals (301.60). I've done a lot of things there except win a race, and that's what we'll be trying to do at the Finals."
Herbert has had some unique experiences this season. For example:
His first NHRA win in almost six years brought him a $100,000 Winston bonus (his qualifying number was selected randomly prior to the race at Houston);
His second win came at Columbus, Ohio, site of his 1993 victory;
His next round win came eight races later (at Topeka, Kan.), with a different crew chief (Larry Frazier, who replaced Dick LaHaie in September) and was the first of eight straight round wins that became back-to-back victories numbers three and four (at Memphis);
During the long string of races without round wins, Herbert dropped from second to 10th in points, then climbed back up the ladder in his last four outings.
"The way I see it, we could move up as high as second place in the standings or we could fall all the way to sixth or seventh," Herbert said. "We definitely want to go up and not backwards. One good thing is that I haven't lost in the first round in the last four races." -More-
In the last two events (at Dallas and Houston), Herbert lost in the quarterfinals to Schumacher. The Snap-on Racing driver did everything he could to eliminate the Winston Series leader at Dallas, leaving the starting line with a .452 reaction time and running 4.639 seconds at 315.45 mph. Schumacher ran a little quicker and faster (4.591 at 319.94) to eke out the win.
At Houston, Herbert and Schumacher squared off again. This time, a mechanical problem triggered the clutch too soon and Herbert's car smoked the tires.
"Our car definitely has a lot of power," Herbert said. "We had an ignition problem at Houston and after we fixed it, the engine rpm jumped up to 8400, about 400 rpm more than usual. Our clutch timers are set according to engine rpm, so when the rpm went up, all of the clutch fingers engaged and we smoked the tires. Frazier and the crew worked on solving the problem before we get to Pomona.
"I told Frazier that we're going to Pomona and throw everything we have into winning the race," added Herbert. "Winning the Finals would be great for another reason. When we win during the season, we can only feel good for one or two weeks, or until the next race. When you win the Finals, you can feel good all winter. That's what we'd like to do."