HOUSTON — You never forget your first win and for three-time world
champion Pro Stock racer Jeg Coughlin Jr., his first professional-level
victory came deep in the heart of Texas in 1997 at Houston Raceway Park,
the site of this weekend’s 20th annual O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals
presented by Pennzoil.

Racing in just his second national event behind the wheel of a Pro Stock
car, Coughlin beat a bevy of veteran racers, including Mike Thomas,
Steve Schmidt, Mike Bell, and Mark Osborne in the final to become the
first racer in NHRA history to win titles in four different classes in
the same year, a record that holds to this day. Aside from his Pro Stock
win, Coughlin had already won in Super Stock, Comp, and Super Gas.

“I remember the feeling of seeing that win light come on in the final
round just like it was yesterday,” said Coughlin, whose mantle is now
crowded with 46 other national event trophies. “I screamed my lungs out
all the way through the shutdown area and when I turned the corner and
all the TV guys came running over it really sunk in what I had done.
What a fantastic memory.”

Coughlin is hoping to repeat that feeling this time through behind the
wheel of Victor Cagnazzi’s Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt. To
put his decade of racing in perspective since that first win, Coughlin
just posted the quickest and fastest pass of his career at the NHRA’s
last stop in Gainesville, Fla., with a 6.582 at 210.01 mph. Coughlin’s
winning numbers against Osborne showed a 7.001 at 196.63 mph.

“Hey, that was pretty good back then,” Coughlin said. “It’s amazing how
far we’ve come and the bottom line is that, if the weather cooperates,
Houston can be a national record track. It has been in the past.

“I know we’ll be ready to go this weekend. We made a bunch of progress
in Gainesville that kept my teammate Dave Connolly and myself
comfortably in the POWERade top 10 and the guys have tested both cars
since then so we should only be better.”

Coughlin actually has four wins at the Baytown, Texas, facility just
outside downtown Houston. In addition to his ’97 victory, he won the Pro
Stock class again in 1998 and 2000. He also won his first Super Stock
national event trophy at HRP way back in 1994.

“I love Texas and I love Houston Raceway Park,” Coughlin said.
“Obviously, it’s been great to me over the years. I’d love to make some
more memories this time around. We certainly have all the pieces in
place to make it happen.”

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