Pomona II: Doug Herbert preview

Focus is on winning Bud Shootout, Auto Club finals for herbert and Snap-On team. POMONA, Calif., Nov. 4, 2002 - The curtain comes down on the 2002 NHRA POWERade season with the running of the Auto Club Nationals, Nov. 7-10, at Pomona Raceway and...

Focus is on winning Bud Shootout, Auto Club finals for herbert and Snap-On team.

POMONA, Calif., Nov. 4, 2002 - The curtain comes down on the 2002 NHRA POWERade season with the running of the Auto Club Nationals, Nov. 7-10, at Pomona Raceway and Doug Herbert will be racing for pride . . . and a couple hundred thousand dollars.

He would be proud to finish fifth or sixth in the final Top Fuel standings because, well, he's never wound up that high in points. Seventh has been his career best, in 1999 and 2001.

As for the cash, Herbert and his Snap-on team will be competing in the special Budweiser Top Fuel Shootout on Saturday, Nov. 9. The winner of the event that pits the eight drivers collecting the most qualifying points at the first 22 races this year will take home $100,000. Should that champion come back and win the Finals the following day, NHRA will toss in a $50,000 bonus. When added to the $50,000 going to the Finals winner, it boosts the overall weekend take to a possible $200,000.

So the driver on his game for two days just might go away with half as much money POWERade is paying newly crowned champion Larry Dixon, whose $400,000 Top Fuel title check was earned in 22 outings. (He clinched it Oct. 27.)

"It's exciting to be able to compete for that much money," said Herbert, who is making his fourth Shootout appearance. "We are in a better position to win than we have been in the past. Coming into Pomona, we have one of the top-running cars."

The luck of the draw, however, hasn't favored Herbert, who will square off against Dixon in Saturday's opening round. Dixon was second in qualifying points earned (3505) and is the defending Shootout champion while Herbert was seventh (3025). Other first-round pairings send top-seeded Kenny Bernstein (3535) against No. 8 Darrell Russell (2905); No. 3 Doug Kalitta (3320) vs. No. 6 Andrew Cowin (3100); and No. 4 Tony Schumacher (3220) vs. No. 5 Cory McClenathan (3120).

The semifinals will feature the Herbert-Dixon and Kalitta-Cowin winners and the Bernstein-Russell winner vs. the Schumacher-McClenathan winner. Those two survivors clash for the big check.

Come race day, Herbert will go into eliminations hoping to wind up a career best sixth. He knows, however, that even if he wins the race, Russell and McClenathan must be eliminated in the first two rounds for him to have a chance at climbing one position.

The numbers look like this: McClenathan, No. 5, 1310 points; Russell, No. 6, 1305; Herbert, No. 7, 1260.

"We are running well, it's just too bad there aren't a couple more races left," said Herbert. "We need to hit it hard. We really want to finish better than seventh, but we have our work cut out for us. We are going to Pomona to win. It doesn't matter what driver pulls up in the other lane. If we are able to win the race, we'll have to hope the other two guys don't win many rounds."

Herbert's improved performances include the first two No. 1qualifying berths of his career - at Joliet, Ill., September 29 and Las Vegas, October 27. He was second at Ennis, Texas, October 13, giving him a 1,2,1 mark in the last three events. The Cherryville, N.C.-based driver also hasn't lost in the first round in 13 consecutive races and he's qualified in the top eight in 10 of the outings.

"The best news for our Snap-on team is that we are finishing the season running strongly," Herbert commented. "We'll regroup during the winter and come out fresh in January ready to go. We plan to work like crazy to be prepared. Our goal is to start the 2003 season where we left off in 2002."

A victory Sunday should point Herbert's team in that direction. And a win Saturday would certainly provide bonus money to the crew for use during the winter.

Qualifying is schedule at 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon and 4 p.m. Saturday. The Shootout, contested during qualifying, opens at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, followed by the semifinals at 2 p.m. and the finals at 4 p.m.

-dhr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Andrew Cowin , Cory McClenathan