GAINESVILLE, Fla.â€” Doug Herbert has been seeking the equivalent of instant gratification for more than half his 36 years.
He does so driving his Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster in NHRA POWERade Series competition. The light goes green, the pedal goes down and the car – hopefully – roars down the quarter-mile track in an elapsed time below 4.50 seconds at speeds in excess of 330 mph.
Sounds easy, right?
Herbert, who began drag racing at age 16, stepped into a Top Fuel dragster in 1990 and has been trying to test the limits of elapsed time and speed ever since. His best time to date is 4.518 seconds at a top speed of 325.69 mph.
Coming off a disappointing 2003 season that saw him finish ninth overall and struggle for part of the 23-race schedule, Herbert hired respected tuner and former driver Ed “Ace” McCulloch as tuner and team manager. The goal was 4.50s and 330 mph.
It hasn`t happened after the first two 2004 races but the Cherryville, N.C., driver and his tuner haven`t lost hope because working out a good combination does require making laps. And that takes time.
“I`m sure we are going to get the tune-up fixed and working good,” Herbert said. “It`s just not happening as fast as I`d like it.”
McCulloch, preparing for the team`s next outing, the Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, March 19-21, agrees.
“I`m real happy with the way the motor`s running,” he said. “We are making progress; it just hasn`t shown in performance, but we do need to start producing little bit better time slips.”
Herbert`s best run of the abbreviated season is 4.568 seconds at Pomona, Calif. That put him ninth in the Winternationals field and led to first-round loss. Traction problems in the opening round at Phoenix the following week sent him home early again, giving him 64 points and 11th place on the leader board.
“Our problem isn`t the motor,” added McCulloch. “I`m pleased with the horsepower it`s making, but I`m not pleased with the application of the power to the racetrack. That`s the clutch area, and I`m not pleased with what`s been happening there.
“We made five test runs the Monday after the Phoenix race and learned some things, things that we hope will make a difference in Gainesville.”
“It`s not easy making the engine happy, but Ed has that going for him,” noted Herbert. “It`s hard to get the power to the track. I`m sure we`ll get it fixed.”
Sooner is better than later â€¦ like March 19, when Gatornationals qualifying begins. Sessions are scheduled at noon and 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Eliminations Sunday start at 11 a.m.
TV Times: Qualifying, ESPN2, early Sunday, 2:30 -4:30 a.m. ET
Eliminations, ESPN2, Sunday, 11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. ET