CHICAGO (June 3) — The moment Jeg Coughlin Jr. laid eyes on Route 66 Raceway in the late ’90s he felt a special bond with the super-track in the Chicago suburb of Joliet. His performances at the facility ever since have done nothing to diminish his love affair with the track, with Coughlin taking home Chicago trophies in 2002, 2003, and 2007.

“I grew up in the sport of drag racing,” Coughlin said. “When I was a little kid I used to go to the races with my dad and my brothers. He was a professional racer running Top Fuel but it wasn’t unusual for us to pit in the grass or gravel. That’s just the way it was back in the day.

“Then I get older and start racing myself and I come to a place like Route 66 Raceway and it just makes you think about how far motorsports as a whole have come in the last couple of decades. It’s an honor to be a part of NHRA Drag Racing at this level.”

A 37-year-old from Delaware, Ohio, Coughlin began his march to his third NHRA POWERade Pro Stock championship at last year’s Chicago race, where he claimed his first of four race titles that lifted him to the No. 1 ranking in the world. It wasn’t an easy trek, with Coughlin facing veterans Mike Edwards, Kurt Johnson, Larry Morgan, and Jason Line on the day, but his Chevrolet Cobalt was up to the task.

“I just feel comfortable here,” said Coughlin, who has two runner-up finishes to go with his three Route 66 wins. “It’s not too far from home so we get a lot of support from friends and family who come over and this is a Division 3 track, so it’s part of our area.

“Obviously, we’ve had some great success here so that helps with your comfort level. Our Chevrolet team also had a nice run Sunday in Topeka (Kan.) with our third semifinal finish of the year, which moved us back up to second place in the points, so we’re excited about running again at Chicago. It’s like a second home for us.”

This time through, Coughlin arrives in Chicago just 20 points behind Johnson in what has turned out to be a very crowded Pro Stock leaderboard.

“There’s been eight winners in the first nine races,” Coughlin said. “That says a lot about how tough it’s been this year. And the points lead has changed hands six times. It’s just crazy. Fortunately, we’ve had the No. 1 ranking twice and taken home a trophy ourselves so we’ve been right there in the mix. I expect that to continue in Chicago.”

This weekend also is special for Coughlin’s family business — JEGS Mail Order — as together with his three brothers they host the prestigious JEGS Allstars event, a special race-within-a-race for the top 64 Sportsman racers in the country.

“Our roots are in Sportsman racing and we always strive to support the NHRA Lucas Oil Series,” Coughlin said. “My brothers Mike and John both race in the Sportsman ranks and John will be in Chicago as part of the Div. 3 Allstars team, so that’s real exciting.

“The JEGS Allstars event is the biggest Sportsman race of the year. There are a lot of bragging rights that go along with winning the race and the team aspect adds a real interesting twist to the proceedings. I know I’ll be watching every round.”

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