Nightly News   |  February 27, 2014

Professional Drag Racer Finds New Way to Help Young Drivers

Doug Herbert clocks in at 300 miles-an-hour on the track, but a personal loss has given him a new passion: teaching teens safe-driving skills.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> tonight our making a difference report is about a man who makes his living in drag racing , a few seconds of fire and smoke and a scary quarter of a mile at a time. but when tragedy struck doug herbert 's family on the road he decided to turn that experience into something positive and developed a new passion for helping young drivers. nbc's janet shamlian has more from bristol, tennessee.

>> reporter: the last time doug herbert was at the motor speedway he was on the track in a car that can scream past at 300 miles an hour. the professional driver has won six times here.

>> this, to me, it is a lot of therapy.

>> reporter: but on this day he is on a different type of win off track.

>> it teaches them to be better drivers and maybe the consequences of making poor decisions.

>> reporter: doug herbert knows those decisions can end in tragedy because he is also a dad. and this terrible scene is where his sons were killed in a 2012 collision. james was 12, john was 17, and police say driving recklessly.

>> they were my world, these guys, james -- they're both my best friends.

>> reporter: it was heartbreak that compelled him to step out of the driver's seat and put teens like these behind the wheel. with his own cash, the help of other pro drivers and kia donated cars herbert started a free driving school called brakes, lessons on what to do in common emergencies. this is not a learn to drive school. teachers are teaching the teens how to react in situations like this that they will likely encounter. recovering from a skid or a tire off the side of the road . 10,000 students in 17 states have taken the course, often signed up by their parents.

>> i didn't want to do this. i don't need this, now i'm really glad because i was dumbfounded with all of this.

>> reporter: but kayla and the teens, what they learned here means the world to her.

>> if i was not going to do anything i would be guilty of a crime. i was going to do something and i was going to make sure that john and james were going to make a difference.

>> reporter: a dad who put the brakes on a fast-paced career to help save lives. janet