Top Fuel Veteran Herbert Set For NHRA Return In Bristol
Doug Herbert may originally be from California, but during the June 18-20 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, he will call Thunder Valley home…something he has enjoyed doing many times during his career.
“Bristol is a fun place,” Herbert started. “I’ve always liked going to Bristol. I won my first Top Fuel race there. Bristol is just a cool place and one of my favorites.”
Herbert won several IHRA Top Fuel titles in Thunder Valley during the 1990s and was the man to beat when the tour visited Northeast Tennessee. When asked why he was so dominant in Bristol, Herbert said, just like everything else in racing, it is dependent on a number of factors.
“We just had the right combination that worked,” he explained. “I don’t know other than that. I wish I knew. If I knew, I’d tell you. It just happened to work. In ’03, we went to the final and got beat by Bernstein. I’ve had a lot of success there. I think it helps that we have experience, but I don’t know. We went to the final at Charlotte, so I hope we’re building on momentum going in there.”
Unfortunately, for Herbert, the current economic situation has relegated him to the sidelines for the last two seasons. Forced to step back his schedule after losing his sponsor, Herbert has had time to focus on his business, Herbert Performance Parts, headquartered just outside of Charlotte, N.C. To this point, he has only competed during one event in the 2010 season. While he would much rather be behind the wheel on a more consistent basis, Herbert enjoys his day job.
“A lot of the racers that race at Bristol are customers at Herbert Performance,” Herbert noted. “I love racing. To be able to do what you love everyday and to deal with race car parts and race car people is a lot of fun. So, that keeps me busy and keeps me connected to a lot of the racers. I have a lot of friends all around and, especially, in Bristol.”
As the owner of a racing equipment business and a racer displaced due to the economy, Herbert has a unique perspective. He feels confident that NHRA will be in a good place when things turn around.
“I think drag racing has a great return on investment,” Herbert said. “Obviously, it costs a lot less than NASCAR, so I think that it is important to show Corporate America how hands-on we are and what NHRA can do, the fan access we can give them and what kind of return they can get. I think there are a lot of advantages in drag racing. I think now that companies are looking closer at how to spend their marketing money. I think that makes NHRA more appealing. As the economy recovers, I think it will probably help NHRA overall.
Another endeavor close to Herbert is the B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) Program he founded after the deaths of his two sons, Jon and James, in an automobile accident in early 2008. The program is designed to remind teenage drivers of the dangers they can face behind the wheel. For Herbert, B.R.A.K.E.S. is one way to help deal with the pain he faced.
“It is really rewarding,” he said of the program. “B.R.A.K.E.S. was started out of a love for my boys and we’re just trying to make a difference in the community and in the country with all the teenage drivers. Six-thousand teenagers are killed in car accidents each year. I think there is something we can do to make an impact on that. That is what we are doing. I think we already have made an impact.
“The Smith Family, Bruton, Marcus and Anna Lisa, have helped B.R.A.K.E.S. a lot and we’ve done a lot of the schools at Speedway Motorsports facilities. They’ve been a great help through Speedway Children’s Charities as well. We are there to help teenagers, but we are here to help families, too. When a teenager gets killed in a car accident, it doesn’t affect just them, it affects the families. B.R.A.K.E.S. has been a lot of therapy for me, but has been a big help for others at the same time.”
After the passing of his sons, Herbert looked to his father, Chet, for support. Chet Herbert, a drag racing legend, and Doug began an ambitious project together, deciding to build a car to set a land speed record. Sadly, the elder Herbert passed away in early 2009. Doug decided to carry on with the project as a tribute to his father and found an ally in an old friend.
“It is an exciting project,” Herbert said. “I started the project with my dad. One day, Ray Evernham came by the shop and saw the pieces laying there and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him I was building a Bonneville car to go break the speed record. He said, ‘You’re kidding, you need a partner on that thing?’
“Ray is just a good guy. I’m lucky he is my buddy. He told me he wanted to help. He said, ‘What if I build the body and the suspension? Those are what I know about.’ I said, ‘Good, you know more than I do about that. Why don’t you do that and I’ll take care of the rest.’”
Herbert and Evernham became close friends after Herbert lost both of his sons. The land speed record project has given them the opportunity to become even closer.
“I’ve known him 20 years through racing,” Herbert continued. “We have become good buddies, especially over the last few years. He lives just down the street. He is just a nice guy and what I like is that he is always intense. He is just a good guy and I’m lucky he is my friend. He came by and saw the car and told me wanted to be involved. I couldn’t think of anyone better. He has a lot of contacts and is a smart cookie. When I sit in that car, I can’t think of anyone better that I would want as my crew chief.”
Before he sets out to break the land speed record, fans will have the chance to see Herbert race his Top Fuel dragster in Thunder Valley.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin when gates open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 18 with the first round of Pro Qualifying slated for 5 p.m. The pro cars will return at 7:30 p.m. for the exciting night qualifying round. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 19 with Pro Qualifying set for 12:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Fans will be able to meet the drivers during Bristol Dragway’s Fan Fest at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. and Final Eliminations crank up at 12:00 noon. Special Father’s Day ticket pricing begins at just $20.
Ticket prices are as follows: Friday -- Sections A - D $30 Adult / $10 Junior; Sections E - U $35 Adult / $10 Junior; Thunder Terrace $35 Adult / $10 Junior, Saturday -- Sections A - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior; Sections E - U $55 Adult / $25 Junior; Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior, Sunday -- Sections A- B $20 Adult / $10 Junior, Sections C - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior, Section E – P $55 Adult/ $25 Junior, Section Q – U $20 Adult/$10 Junior, Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior. Weekend combos are: Sections A - B $79 Adult / $30 Junior, Section C – D $95 Adult/$30 Junior, Sections E - P $120 Adult / $50 Junior, Sections Q – U $95 Adult/$30 Junior and Thunder Terrace $120 Adult / $50 Junior. Thunder Valley Club admission for three days is $300 for adults and $100 for juniors. Three-day Bruton’s Suite admission is $450 for both adults and juniors.
To purchase tickets, please call the Bristol ticket office at 423-989-6900 or visit www.bristoltix.com.