DENVERâ€” Doug Herbert can truthfully say the second half of the 2004 POWERade Series season will be all downhill following the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Friday through Sunday at Bandimere Speedway.
Because this is the only track with an elevation in excess of 5,000 feet – to the delight of every Top Fuel and Funny Car tuner – Herbert is speaking only of altitude, of course. Now is the time he wants to see the performance of his Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster improve dramatically.
Tuner Ed â€œAceâ€ McCulloch and the crew â€œhave been working hard and theyâ€™ve made a lot of mechanical changes Ed thought were necessary to make the car run better,â€ said Herbert. â€œDenver is a difficult race anyway, because of the altitude, and now this is the first race where weâ€™ll be using some of the new rules changes NHRA implemented. It will make things very interesting this weekend for everyone.â€
A new rear tire and a shield around the dragsterâ€™s roll cage will be in use for the first time. NHRA altered the rules following the death of Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell in a race at St. Louis (July 25).
â€œWe put a titanium cover on the outside of the roll cage around the driverâ€™s head,â€ explained Herbert, â€œand we added the titanium under the driverâ€™s seat to just below the shoulder straps.
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to getting NHRAâ€™s Western Swing off on a good note,â€ Herbert added. â€œWe need to go up there and have a good outing. But itâ€™s always a roll of the dice when it comes to the tune-up.â€
McCulloch made changes in the clutch area because â€œwe think this new approach will be better,â€ said Herbert. â€œWe struggled in the first half of the season and this should help us. One of the good things was we didnâ€™t break a lot of parts and we oiled the race track only once in 12 races.â€
Herbert enters the Mile-Highs ninth in points with 536, but his goal is moving up several spots before the season-ending Auto Club Finals, Nov. 11-14.
â€œWe think weâ€™re better than our No. 9 showing,â€ Herbert concluded. â€œWe need to prove it in the last 11 races.â€
Denverâ€™s all-important qualifying runs take place Friday at 5 and 8 p.m. and again Saturday at 3 and 6 p.m., setting the stage for Sundayâ€™s 12:30 p.m. eliminations.
The downhill portion of the season begins Monday when the Snap-on crew heads for sea level in Seattle and the July 23-25 race, followed by the Western Swingâ€™s last stop at Sonoma, Calif., July 30-Aug. 1.
Herbert changes addresses
Herbert admits he hasnâ€™t had much time to think about the new rules, or the one beginning at Seattle that calls for the percentage of nitromethane fuel to drop from 90 to 85 percent. His focus has been overseeing the relocation of his performance parts business.
Moving has been a work in progress for several weeks and it looks like it will be a few more before Herbert can officially make the switch from his longtime business location in Cherryville, N.C., to the new place in Lincolnton.
â€œWeâ€™re getting close and everything at the new place is looking better every day,â€ he said of his 100,000-square foot building. â€œWeâ€™ve been doing a lot of the moving ourselves and thatâ€™s been a real chore.
â€œWe are putting a new front on the building. Itâ€™ll be glass and brushed stainless steel. Itâ€™ll look really good when itâ€™s finished.â€
The building also will house his drag racing team, which, incidentally, will not be back in North Carolina until late August, thanks to the upcoming schedule. Following the three-race Western swing are events at Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 15) and Memphis (Aug. 22) before the dragster returns.