BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 19) — Five-time world champion drag racer Jeg Coughlin Jr. will begin his quest for a second victory at Bristol Dragway opposite veteran Johnny Gray after qualifying 11th in the field of the 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals  with a 6.764 at 204.35 mph in the Chevrolet Cobalt.
Coughlin’s best pass of the weekend so far came in Saturday’s third qualifying session under conditions that should mirror Sunday’s first round. The run sets up his first race of the year against Gray, who had a best of 6.757 at 204.20 mph on Friday evening.
“We ran decent today,” Coughlin said. “I think we were eighth quickest in one round and fifth quickest in the other, so we’re still not running to our full potential. We’re going to dig deep. There might be an engine swap, we’re not real sure yet. When tomorrow comes we’ll be on our best behavior and our competitors had better too.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone in the field you can’t be on the ball against. Johnny’s team in particular has been doing a nice job of late. We’ve been trying some new things here in qualifying. We didn’t complete the run in Q1, which got us behind the eight-ball a little bit there. Then our performance Friday night wasn’t as great and that’s when we really needed to shine.”
A winner here in 2007, Coughlin currently sits third in the Full Throttle points with six races left until the Countdown to 1 playoffs begin. A big Sunday could help eliminate some of the 78-point deficit he has to second-place points earner Allen Johnson. The 39-year-old Coughlin is 71 markers up on fourth-ranked driver Greg Anderson.
Before climbing in his racecar Sunday, Coughlin will share some time with his legendary father, Jeg Coughlin Sr., as part of the track’s “Donuts with Dad” promotion.
“All the Bruton Smith-owned tracks do neat programs that bring the fans closer to the people in the sport,” Coughlin said. “With Father’s Day taking place tomorrow we’ll get to have some coffee and donuts with some fans and my pop.
“Dad is one of the few masterminds in the sport and fortunately he’s right here with us, which is fantastic. You give him less than a couple weeks time he can make a Top Fuel or Pro Stock car run as well as it’s going to run. Anything you want, he’s got that track savvy. He’s been around the sport for 50 years. His passion has filled a business need and now JEGS is celebrating it’s 50th year. Thank God for racing.”
Due to a nearby church, eliminations begin one hour later than normal. Pro Stock should hit the track around 1 p.m. EDT. ESPN2 will provide primetime coverage of the event.
In Pro Mod action, which began eliminations Saturday night, Troy Coughlin bowed out early to Ray Commisso, who had out-qualified him by just one position. Troy got the jump on Commisso with a .054-second launch to Commisso’s .079-second start, but he was caught and passed before half track. Commisso won with a 6.076 at 240.81 mph to Troy’s 6.363 at 214.66 mph.
Troy is one of only two drivers in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series to have qualified for every race this season.
Jeg and Troy’s young niece Makenna Brown made her Junior Dragster debut memorable as she raced through four rounds to win the event at National Trail Raceway in Ohio.
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