LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Reigning POWERade Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. began his 2008 racing season in unique fashion by participating in the third annual Chevy Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge at the U.S. Olympic compound in northern New York. Piloting a bobsled for the first time, Coughlin was one of five NHRA pros to take on several NASCAR drivers in the charity event, which raises money for the U.S. Bobsled team.

Although his experience sledding down a 19-turn course where racers reach speeds in excess of 60 mph was nonexistent prior to the practice sessions for this event, Coughlin took home a bronze medal in the individual race featuring 10 NASCAR and five NHRA professionals. Coughlin was also third-best in the NASCAR vs. NHRA Challenge.

“I was a little suspect Thursday morning when we pulled up to that course and I started realizing I was pretty much committed to this deal,” Coughlin said. “It’s one thing to say it would be fun to drive a bobsled when you’re sitting in your office back home but quite another when you get there and see that massive hill.

“Some great members of our national team took us under their wing and gave us a heap of instruction and before you know it we were in sleds making our first few runs. They started us down low and we made enough runs to get comfortable. Then we moved up to Gate 3, where the women’s teams usually start, and we raced from there.

“It was the most exciting thing I’ve done outside of a racecar in a long, long time. We had an absolute blast the entire weekend and were treated so well by everyone involved. It was great fun to hang out with those crazy NASCAR boys as well.”

Coughlin made a total of 12 runs over three days, with his most impressive ones coming on Saturday when the racing got serious. Race day’s morning session featured each sledder racing against the clock. A three-time Pro Stock champion on the drag strip, Coughlin opened with a 52.21-second pass down the icy slope, which advanced him to the second round. He was the only NHRA racer to move out of the first round. He then posted an improved 51.78 to move onto the podium, finishing third to three-time Bodine Bobsled Challenge winner Boris Said, who was 1.34 seconds ahead of Coughlin after his two runs.

“I was pleased to represent NHRA so well and to even be in the same neighborhood as Boris was really something because he’s made more bobsled runs then anyone there, except for the real bobsledders,” Coughlin said. “Making a good run requires being as smooth as possible. You also want to keep the sled off the walls because that just kills your time. You just kind of drive by feel. It’s insane, really, and you get going so fast it’s almost a blur. I can see where experience really pays off in that sport.”

In the NASCAR vs. NHRA Challenge, Coughlin reached the quarterfinals before falling to fellow drag racer Bob Vandergriff by .13 seconds.

All of the racing stars were accompanied by National Guardsman in their two-man sleds. Throughout the weekend, Coughlin was joined by National Guardsman Adam Barber, who had recently returned from Afghanistan.

“Having Adam and the rest of those brave young men and women with us was an honor,” Coughlin said. “I think they had as much fun as we did and they sure showed their bravery riding along with a bunch of rookie drivers.

“It was great to raise money for the Olympic team. I can’t wait to watch them all compete in the coming year and I wish them the best of luck. If they have me, I’ll certainly be back next year to do it again.”

The event, which will air on Speed TV Jan. 20 and 27, benefited the U.S. Olympic bobsled team and the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, which designs and makes bobsleds for U.S. athletes. A bobsled can cost as much as $50,000.

The NHRA group consisted of Coughlin, Vandergriff, Morgan Lucas, J.R. Todd, and Phil Burkart. The NASCAR team was populated by Said, Ron Hornaday Jr., Johnny Benson, Randy Lajoie, Todd Bodine, Joey Logano, L.W. Miller, Donny Lia, Larry Gunselman, and Steve Carlson.

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