Jeg Coughlin Jr. casts a rather pervasive shadow throughout the NHRA POWERade Pro Stock hierarchy.

Already acknowledged as one of the most skilled and formidable pure drivers in category history, his three World Championships — one in the sportsman ranks in the Super Gas class and two Pro Stock crowns — have given him legitimate status as a drag racing heavy hitter.

But 2005 has been anything but a tour de force for the man affectionately called “Jeggie.”

After racing throughout his entire NHRA career with his family-owned Jeg’s Mail Order operation, Coughlin made a daring move at the end of the 2004 season when he announced he would drive a Pro Stock Dodge Stratus under the banner of Schumacher Racing. Now teamed with another racer who became a Pro Stock veteran at an early age, Richie Stevens Jr., and the legendary Bob Glidden as crew chief, Coughlin entered 2005 with reasonable expectations that his calculated gamble would pay off.

As the ’05 NHRA POWERade schedule heads for Brainerd, Minn., next weekend, Coughlin is mired in seventh place in the Pro Stock standings and is in danger of suffering his second consecutive winless campaign — a far cry from his 2000 championship year when he tallied 10 national event wins. But he and his team are banking on a successful visit to Brainerd International Raceway, due in large part to Coughlin’s three prior wins there as well as Glidden’s four.

“Between the two of us we should figure this one out,” Coughlin said. “We’ve got a great race car right now and the guys at the engine shop have been making plenty of power. When you add those two things together with me and Bob’s combined experience winning races at this track, we should be able to put together a big weekend.”

Remarkably, Coughlin’s last national event win came two years ago in Sonoma, Calif., at the event that precedes the Brainerd race each season.

“I know and respect this sport and I know you go through stretches like this from time to time,” Coughlin said. “Last season one team won 19 races. There weren’t many leftover for the rest of us. The years when we won our championships we probably got more breaks then the other guys. It’s just the way it goes.

“I don’t feel I have the right to be frustrated. My experience tells me that when you’re not winning you just need to keep after it and be ready to take advantages of the good things that might come your way. There is no lack of effort or drag racing intelligence in this group. We all know what it takes to win and we know how to get there. It will come together soon. Brainerd would be a great launching pad for us.”

Unabashed optimism, or a gut feeling that his long victory drought may be over? Hard to say, but Coughlin is one racer who has kept his head on straight in the midst of his longest career losing streak.

Bill Stephens covers NHRA for ESPN.com.

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