CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 16) — After entering the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs as the hottest driver in drag racing, five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. had an uncharacteristic quarterfinal exit at the recently completed U.S. Nationals in Indy, leaving him and the Mooresville, N.C.-based Pro Stock team anxious to get back on the strip at this weekend’s race in Charlotte and redeem themselves.

Coughlin cruised into the postseason with two wins in three consecutive final-round appearances but his Chevy Cobalt overpowered the racetrack in Indianapolis and spun its tires just enough to prevent him from advancing further in the first of six playoff races.

“We’re okay. If anything, we’re even more focused than we were before,” Coughlin said. “The track conditions just caught us a little off guard and we pushed the tune-up over the edge ever-so-slightly and it cost us.

“The best news of all is we’re now heading into Charlotte, a track where we’ve had a lot of success in the past, and one that’s home to Victor Cagnazzi Racing. The entire gang will be there, along with their families and friends, and we all want to do our very best. We’re ready for the fight.”

Coughlin was top qualifier at the last NHRA national event at zMax Dragway after posting a track record pass of 6.520 seconds. He also was the No. 2 qualifier at the inaugural zMax event in 2008. Ironically, although it’s one of his favorite facilities, zMax Dragway is the only NHRA track where Coughlin hasn’t logged a win.

“We’ve only had three national events there so hopefully it just hasn’t been our time yet,” the 40-year-old co-owner of JEGS Mail Order said. “We need to be on our toes and avoid any mistakes. We’ve won two out of three championships since the NHRA went to a playoff system and it’s always been the team that limits those little errors that ultimately comes out on top.

“We know we’ve got some of the stiffest competition ever in this category this year. Mike Edwards has been a monster for two years now. Allen Johnson is right there with him. Greg Anderson and Jason Line are champion drivers. Then you see a guy like Greg Stanfield pop up and win Indy. It really is a case of anyone can win one of these races. The talent level is incredible.”

A four-time winner in 2010, Coughlin will be joined in the pits by his fiancé Samantha Kenny, a national event winner who races Super Comp, and his older brother Troy Coughlin Sr., who races Pro Mod in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

“We’ve always been a racing family so we’re most comfortable with everyone close by,” Coughlin said. “My father (Jeg Sr.) also will be there and he’s the smartest guy I know when it comes to racecars. His influence will be a big bonus, as always. We’re excited to get back after it and put this Chevrolet Cobalt back in the winner’s circle.”

Qualifying for the third annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals begins with two sessions at 2:30 and 6 p.m. Friday. Qualifying highlights will be shown at 10 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.


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