GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16) — One day after celebrating his father’s 70th birthday, Jeg Coughlin Jr. delivered the best gift available — the trophy of the 39th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals. Coughlin beat rival Jason Line with a 6.652 at 208.07 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt to score his 39th Pro Stock victory and the 52nd national event win of his illustrious career.

It was a huge day for the three-time and reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion as he moved into first place in the POWERade standings in the quarterfinals with a decisive holeshot win over Line’s teammate Greg Anderson. By the end of the day, his lead was stretched to 46 points over Line, who moved up to second, and 58 over Anderson, who dropped from first to third.

“It feels great, without question,” Coughlin said. “It certainly feels like we earned this one. The entire weekend was a grind, from losing Friday’s two qualifying sessions to rain on through to the trials and tribulations of race day. It took a toll on us all. But the reward was worth it.

“All the races are special and they’re all wonderful to win but this is the Gatornationals. It has such a history. It’s one of our marquee events. I remember coming here as a boy when my pop raced here and now I’m sitting here in the winner’s circle with my son. It makes it very special.”

Coughlin reached his second final of the year and 62nd of his Pro Stock career with some impressive elimination round wins, the best of which was a holeshot victory over Anderson that was decided by two thousandths of a second, or about eight inches, at the top end. Knowing he needed a big pass, Coughlin dug down and left the starting line with a .010-second reaction time to Anderson’s .026-second start. Getting chased all the way down the track, he managed to hold off Anderson’s 6.631 with his 6.645.

Ron Krisher and Johnny Gray also fell victim to Coughlin on the day, even though the semifinal race against Gray was almost negated by a broken wheelie bar on the car.

“It shook pretty hard on the burnout and Roy [Simmons, crew chief] got on the radio and told me I had to shut it off,” Coughlin said. “I said we should at least stage the thing and see what happens. By that point, I was ready for it to turn left when I dropped the clutch but the track was hot enough that we got some tire spin and it kept it off that broken piece. It turned out it ran so well that we even had lane choice in the final. That was a big pass for us and we certainly got a little race luck as well.

“Overall, I couldn’t be happier for Pops on his birthday and for our team owner Victor Cagnazzi, who turned 50 Friday. What a weekend.”

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