LAS VEGAS (April 4) — In a scene that could have come straight out of a Hollywood movie set, reigning Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. finished qualifying for this weekend’s 10th annual NHRA Nationals, got out of his 1,35-horsepower Chevrolet Cobalt, and was immediately whisked away to a waiting helicopter for a quick flight to the Grand Canyon.

As important as his ongoing quest for a fifth Pro Stock title is to the 38-year-old from Delaware, Ohio, sometimes racing takes a backseat to the more important things in life, like the wedding Coughlin and friends are attending Saturday night on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

“We were cutting it close from the end of qualifying to the time we all needed to load up in the helicopter and fly over for the wedding but we got it done,” Coughlin said. “It certainly made for a unique experience.”

Immediately after qualifying eighth with a 6.708 at 204.48 mph, Coughlin did his best James Bond impersonation, peeling off his firesuit and donning his Sunday best for the wedding of longtime friends Doug Daniel and Heather Rickard.

“We didn’t have time to analyze our runs just yet but I can tell you we’re pretty pleased with the racecar at the moment,” Coughlin said. “We came in here with the goal of getting the car to repeat and be consistent and we feel like we’ve moved in that direction.

“We tried a completely different set-up in an area that was concerning us and Roy (Simmons, crew chief) is tickled with how the car has responded. It’s still early but we’re encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

Wedding celebrations aside, Coughlin will begin his quest for a fifth Las Vegas title against No. 9 qualifier Kurt Johnson, who ran a 6.715 at 205.10 mph. The two raced once this year for the trophy of the Phoenix event, which Coughlin claimed. Overall, Coughlin is 31-25 versus his good friend. Coughlin recorded wins at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2000, ’01, ’02, and ’08.

“Hopefully we’ll have two reasons to celebrate this weekend,” Coughlin said.


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