Sonoma: Herbert, McCulloch preview

Hot or Cold, Herbert, McCulloch Hope Weather's the Same at Sonoma                  SONOMA, Calif., July 27, 2004 - Ideally, three of the four NHRA Top Fuel qualifying sessions prior to each national event are to familiarize ...

Hot or Cold, Herbert, McCulloch Hope Weather's the Same at Sonoma                  SONOMA, Calif., July 27, 2004 - Ideally, three of the four NHRA Top Fuel qualifying sessions prior to each national event are to familiarize crew chiefs with the different track/weather conditions for the varying race locations.

In a perfect world, conditions for Friday and Saturday qualifying runs would be the same through Sunday's eliminations.  No one has every said Mother Nature is perfect.  In four of the past five POWERade Series events, qualifying was run under cooler-than-normal circumstances.  When race day arrived, the temperatures warmed and anything learned in qualifying became moot.

It was the reverse last weekend at Seattle when temperatures climbed near the 100-degree mark Friday and Saturday, then dropped by more than 20 degrees on Sunday. Track temperatures were in the 130-140-degree range the first two days before plunging to less than 100 degrees for Sunday's first round.

"I'd sure like to see the same conditions all through the weekend," said Ed McCulloch, tuner of Doug Herbert's Snap-on Racing dragster.  "Last weekend was the first we were using the 85-percent nitro (fuel mixture), so all our data was based on 90-percent nitro."

McCulloch now has data from a few more 85-percent runs to choose from going into this weekend's Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway. And he's hopeful consistent conditions will be the norm during Friday and Saturday qualifying and for Sunday's eliminations.

Herbert, meanwhile, echoes his tuner's feelings. 

"It seems like all year it's been cool during qualifying and hot on race day," he said.  "It was completely the opposite in Seattle.  It would be nice to have it stay the same this weekend.

"I like going to Sonoma.  I won the race there in 2002 and it always feels good to go back to a track where you've won before," added Herbert. "It would be a good place for us to get back into the winner's circle.  We get a lot of support from the Snap-on dealers in the area."

While he was pleased with his 4.718-second qualifying time that put him sixth overall at Seattle, Herbert was disappointed to leave the Northwest without a round win.

Herbert at Infineon Raceway

"We got down the track three out of four times during qualifying with the heat being a big obstacle," he commented. 

On race day, the obstacle was one of Connie Kalitta's race cars.

Herbert qualified sixth (4.718 seconds at 300.86 mph) and ran a respectable 4.721 at 307.72 mph in the opening round against David Grubnic, driver of one of three Kalitta-owned dragsters.  Grubnic, whose qualifying best of 4.983 put him in 11th starting position, uncorked a  4.618-second elapsed time that held up for quickest of the event.  Grubnic went on finish second.

"That's what you expect from a Kalitta-tuned car," Herbert said.  "He takes a shot at a tune-up and hopes it works.  It did this time. 

"I know we're all going to Sonoma with the idea of winning rounds on Sunday," concluded the driver from Cherryville, N.C.

Friday qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. Friday and noon and 3:30 Saturday.  Eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Connie Kalitta