BELLE ROSE, La. (March 20) – Final eliminations began today for the sixth annual JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals at No Problem Raceway Park in Belle Rose, La. After a busy day of qualifying on Friday, event organizers made the decision to set the fields early and begin eliminations early on Saturday due to an approaching storm front. The top qualifiers from Friday – Frank Aragona (Comp), Art Leong (Super Stock) Wade Owens (Stock), John Benoit (Top Sportsman), Tom Elliott (Top Dragster) and Ronnie Harris (Sportsman Motorcycle) – each maintained their positions. Of the top qualifiers, only Benoit was able to advance past the second round of eliminations today.
What started as a promising weekend for Team JEGS drivers Mike and T.J. Coughlin ended prematurely as they were both defeated in round two of eliminations. Mike qualified his Chevy Cobalt third in the Top Sportsman field with a career best run of 6.68-seconds and won his opening round race against Frank Maiolo using a nearly perfect starting line reaction. In round two, Coughlin made a solid run with a 6.74 on his 6.73 dial-in, but was defeated by Joe Roubicek of Westlake Village, Calif. Coughlin lost the round by a microscopic margin of just .005-second.
“The first round was good but the second one wasn’t,” said Coughlin. “I don’t really care for running in the dark but sometimes you have to adapt and this time, I didn’t do a very good job. When we got close to the finish line, I thought I was ahead and I started getting on and off the gas. I did that one time too-many because I let him beat me by five-thousandths. At the speeds we are running, everything happens so fast that you don’t have a lot of time to react. The car also stumbled a little on the starting line because it was cold but it was still a winnable round.
“I hate to lose but overall it was not a bad outing,” Coughlin said. “My family had fun, especially my son, Jack, who got to race his Jr. Dragster a few times. The good thing about this race is that you can get beat and not feel too bad about it because everyone has so much fun here.”

In Super Comp, T.J. was one of the top qualifiers in the class after posting an 8.904 run in his opening round win but he eventually dropped a close race against Dwight Pyle of Baytown, Texas in round two. T.J., the first third-generation Coughlin to win a major drag racing title, did not leave empty handed as he claimed a $1,000 bonus as the King of the Bayou as a reward for posting the best run in the opening round of Super Comp eliminations.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong; I just lost a close race,” said T.J. “In Super Comp, they are all great races so you have to expect that it’s going to happen every now and then. I did win the King of the Bayou which was pretty cool and I thought that might give me some momentum for the rest of the weekend but it didn’t. On the plus side, my car is flawless so the ball is in my court. I just need to do what I’m supposed to do as a driver. Thankfully, we’ll be racing in Charlotte next weekend so I get to try again. We’re going there with our heads held high.”

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