Reading: Herbert ready for stretch run

MOHNTON, Pa., Sept. 7, 2001 - Six races and 181 points separate Doug Herbert from the end of the 2001 NHRA season and his goal of finishing among the top six Winston Series Top Fuel drivers. Half the remaining events will be run in successive ...

MOHNTON, Pa., Sept. 7, 2001 - Six races and 181 points separate Doug Herbert from the end of the 2001 NHRA season and his goal of finishing among the top six Winston Series Top Fuel drivers.

Half the remaining events will be run in successive weeks, beginning with the Keystone Nationals, Sept. 14-16, at Maple Grove Raceway in this small hamlet near Reading. Herbert fared quite well in the last three-week stint a month ago, moving from eighth to seventh in points and getting closer to sixth-place Darrell Russell.

Russell, however, was able to win a few more rounds than Herbert in the past two races, thereby extending his advantage.

"We need to step back and take a look at what we're doing," Herbert said of himself, crew chief Larry Frazier and the Snap-on Racing team. "We need to find out what's gone wrong (recently) and fix it. We need to get things in order."

Herbert and the crew know they have a car capable of winning. They've already done it once this season (Pomona, Calif., July 7). And they marched into the semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once during stops at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. in July and early August. It was Herbert's best performance in the traditional western swing.

While he hasn't won a race at Maple Grove, Herbert did win his first two rounds of eliminations at the track last year in his sixth Keystone Nationals appearance.

"We plan to hit Maple Grove ready to be competitive," added Herbert, who lives in Cherryville, N.C. "I know I'm planning on winning at least one more race this year."

Russell has won once but has been to the finals five times. That's the main reason his point total is 1145 to Herbert's 965.

Herbert was disappointed he wasn't able to win any rounds at the U.S. Nationals (at Indianapolis, Sept. 3). He qualified 10th with solid runs of 4.610 and 4.630 seconds Sunday, some of the best times of the day on a hot racing surface.

During the first round, however, a problem in the car's clutch area stymied him. He felt the car would've run another low 4.60 and, if it had, he may have beaten Tim Gibson. Instead, the clutch malfunction slowed him to a 4.697 and Gibson won with a 4.676.

"The way we were running I thought that we had a chance to win it," Herbert commented. "A lot of the winning times during eliminations were in the 4.60s. The track was like the one at Pomona (where Herbert won in July). It was decent but not great.

"Looking back, we probably shouldn't have tested new parts in the first three qualifying runs like we did," he continued. "But the car responded when we put in the old tune-up."

That's the tune-up that will be in the car when qualifying begins Friday.

The two events following the Keystone Nationals are the AutoZone Nationals, Sept. 21-23, at Memphis and the Route 66 Nationals at Joliet, Ill., Sept. 28-30.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tim Gibson