When Doug Herbert makes his way to Houston Raceway Park for this weekend`s O`Reilly Spring NHRA Nationals, he might be thinking of history.
Fortunately, he has new parts to get the same results.
Herbert earned the Top Fuel victory at Houston in 1999. He wants to make a return to the winner`s circle, but knows the car and parts he used in 1999 won`t get him there.
Luckily, Herbert and the Snap-on Tools dragster team will be prepared for the competition. The team will debut a new car this weekend and Herbert can`t wait to go for a ride.
“I think the new car is going to help us because the chassis on a Top Fuel car gets so fatigued going down the track time and again,” Herbert said.
“It was time to make a change and get a new car. We wanted to start the year out with a new car, but it just wasn`t ready in time. We`ve done well in the first three races with an old car, setting career-best numbers at the first two events even. Hopefully we can get even better with a new car.”
Crew chief Rob Flynn said the car could come in handy this weekend, especially if the warm weather sticks around.
“We`ve made a couple of test passes and it ran pretty well,” Flynn said. “Most importantly, it`s new pipe and that alone should make a difference. It`s a new McKinney design so we`ll go to Houston and see how it runs.”
Herbert`s `99 victory was especially lucrative. He became the first winner of the Winston No-Bull Challenge, pocketing a $100,000 bonus for the victory.
“Houston is the site of the biggest win ever. It paid the most and it was a lot of fun,” Herbert said. “Houston Raceway Park is a very quick track when the weather cooperates and I think it`s time that we repeat the win from 1999. We definitely have the team that could make it happen.”
After three events, Herbert has one runner-up finish (Pomona) and is in seventh place. With three races in the next four weekends, Herbert said the team needs to make sure they get on pace now.
“It`s great that we had a couple of weeks off to prepare for Houston because it is the first of three races in four weeks,” Herbert said.
“We start the season slow with three races with lots of time off between them, but now it`s time to get in the groove and get after every championship point possible.
“We have the team, the car, the driver and the tools to win races. We just need to put it all together and when we have the opportunity to win, we have to take advantage of it. There are no gimmies out here and every point is critical.”
It may seem like the season just started, but really, there are just 20 races remaining.
“We need to average a semifinal appearance at every event,” Herbert said. “You can`t have first round losses and plan on competing for a championship. There are at least 10 teams that have everything they need to run a competitive race and every round is going to be tough. If you beat a top 10 car, you are capable of winning the race.”
Qualifying starts at 3:30 p.m. Friday and continues at 11:30 a.m. Saturday before final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Sunday. All the action can be seen on ESPN2 throughout the weekend. Qualifying will air at 7 p.m. (ET) on April 9 before final eliminations can be seen at 7 p.m. (ET) on April 10.
by Special to the LTN