NHRA Route 66 Nationals
Herbert eager to go racing after fluke finish in Atlanta
Chicago, pre-race: Ed "Ace" McCulloch knows one very important fact about Route 66 Raceway: "It's a good track," he said.
That's pertinent at this time of year because McCulloch, tuner of Doug Herbert's Snap-on Racing Top Fuel dragster, is responsible for coming up with a tune-up capable of winning the Route 66 Nationals.
"Every time I've left there, I always said we needed to use more clutch, and that's the sign of a good race track," said McCulloch, a former driver and veteran tuner of both dragsters and Funny Cars.
He doesn't believe he'll be dealing with a tricky, slippery racing surface this week, something that was necessary last weekend during the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. And McCulloch is 99 percent certain he won't be forced to give Herbert the signal to shut off the engine at the starting like he did Sunday.
Racetrack conditions are one thing; an unusual parts failure is another.
A broken fuel line was leaking nitromethane when Herbert did his burn out prior to his first-round match against Rhonda Hartman-Smith, forcing McCulloch to make the call.
"There was a hole in the line and we don't have any idea why it leaked when it did," McCulloch said. "It wasn't from lack of maintenance. The fuel lines are pressure checked after each race, and it didn't leak when we warmed the engine before the first round. It just picked a very unfortunate time to go bad."
After Herbert qualified fifth (4.564 seconds at 321.65 mph) and added a 4.694-second time that was fourth quickest during Saturday's hot, sticky conditions, everyone in the Snap-on camp felt confident Herbert would be winning rounds on race day instead of scratching his head and wondering what happened.
"It really hurt because we had a competitive car and we were looking to win some rounds," said Herbert. "In all the years I've been racing, I think that's only happened to me once before. Now we'll get ready for our first race in the Chicago area this year. I hope we can go out and run like we did in 2002 when we qualified No. 1 there."
The unexpected early exit dropped Herbert into 10th place in points (310). He is, however, only three rounds out of sixth place with seven of 23 races completed.
Route 66 Nationals is the second of three successive races. Herbert will be driving one of his DougZilla theme cars again this weekend. This marks the third of 11 races where DougZilla Herbert's alter-ego appears in special paint schemes dedicated to each area.
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