GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. has mastered the ever-changing world of NHRA Pro Stock racing four different times, winning world championships in 2000, 2002, 2007, and 2008 in his Chevrolet Cobalt. Armed with that experience, he took the NHRA’s three new rule modifications in stride, even though teams only had two weeks to figure out the balance of their hot rods before this weekend’s 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals.

“After everything that happened in Phoenix the NHRA mandated some pretty significant changes,” Coughlin said. “They increased the size of the rear wickerbill, added an air dam up front, and had us move more weight to the rear of the car. We had to go test and figure out a new balance for the car.”

After two rollovers and a number of complaints about traction problems over the back half of the Phoenix track from Coughlin’s fellow racers, NHRA postponed the final three rounds of eliminations of the Arizona Nationals to this Saturday’s qualifying sessions. The tech department then implemented the new rules in an effort to provide the cars with more downforce and stability.

“The rear wickerbill went from 5/8ths to 3/4ths of an inch,” Coughlin said. “That might not sound like much but it makes a big difference. The air dam up front is like a little lip along the bottom of the nose of the car. It’s about 3/8ths of an inch, so it’s fairly big. That will keep the front end down, which will make it easier to steer these things. And the weight they added to the rear end will help keep the car planted on those big Goodyears.

“We were going to test any way but after they informed us of these changes the primary goal of the test shifted to making sure the car would work they way we need it to with a different overall balance.”

Coughlin and crew spent two days at Bradenton Motorsports Raceway just south of Tampa Bay. The first day produced runs of 6.53, 6.54, and 6.57 seconds, all at top speeds in excess of 211 mph. The second day offered up a pair of 6.55s at 210 mph.

“We were very pleased with the runs we made,” Coughlin said. “We posted the quickest runs both days out of the group of teams that were there, which was encouraging. The first day, I’d guess there were 60 or so runs attempted and only 20 made it down the track, so to be a part of that small group was exciting.”

Coughlin has two Gatornational titles on his 48-win Pro Stock resume having won the trophy in 2001 and 2008. He’d love to add a third this time through to help ease the pain of a 0-2 start to the 2010 season.

“We’re not thrilled about our start but there’s nothing to be too concerned about,” he said. “When I look at what we have here — the car, the crew, the engines, the people back at the shop — I see everything you need to win championships. We’ve done it multiple times before. We’ve just made some errors, but we’ll fix that.”

Coughlin will be joined in the Gainesville Raceway pits by his fiancée, Samantha Kenny, who will be racing her dragster in the Super Comp class, and older brother, Troy, who will be driving his new Chevy Camaro in the NHRA Get Screened American Pro Mod Series.


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