BELLE ROSE, La. — Eighteen-year-old Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. is a first-year Business major at Nicholls State University during the week. On the weekends, Hidalgo pushes the limits of his 1998 Z28 Camaro on the quarter mile at No Problem Raceway, just seven miles from his Donaldsonville, La. home.

NHRA, motorsports’ largest sanctioning body, depends on “weekend warriors” like Hidalgo and his father Jimmy. Dubbed “Country Dog” and “Country Pup,” the two with teammate Coty Kern have dominated the ultra-popular Stock Eliminator category in Division 4 this season.

They will vie for more than $50,000 in winnings at the third annual JEG’S.com NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals April 21-23, a national event exclusively for NHRA Sportsman competitors in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Featured categories include: Comp Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street. Drivers in five categories earn points leading to the 2006 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world championships.

While in many cases Lucas Oil drivers compete at the same events as the elite drivers in NHRA’s marquee POWERade Drag Racing Series, the JEG’S.com NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals are designed to feature drivers just like the Hidalgos – your neighbors who, like Jimmy, have normal “day jobs” and compete in the developmental series that many take to the pros.

Jimmy Hildalgo Jr. started his driving career in a junior dragster at 8 years old. He won the first junior dragster event he competed in. Then he added another win in that series and a couple more once he moved up to his father’s category. He got his love for the sport from his father, who he now competes against.

“We get along good,” Hidalgo Jr. said. “I tease him that I’ll beat him. We kind of keep each other motivated, just trying to keep each other driving good. I tease him, saying I had the better light (at the starting line), or I say I’m the better driver. It makes him want to be a driver, but it does for me, too.”

Jimmy’s father expects to trade the lead in the point standings with him and Kern a few times this season, and hopes to see his son take his ride all the way to the roster of the JEG’s Allstars event during the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., June 8-11.

“(Jimmy Jr.) is trying to catch up with me on trophies,” said Hidalgo Sr., who at 47 years old has two national event wins and numerous records.

He began racing at age 15 in Baton Rouge, La., and has since raced from Gainesville, Fla. to Chicago. Hidalgo Sr. enjoys being at his home track the most, though.

“We’ve got a lot of friends that’s going to be there,” Hidalgo Sr. said. “We’ll boil crawfish and stay at the track the whole weekend.”

SPECIAL EVENTS: The drivers will face off in several special events in addition to regular competition, including the: Mopar Hemi Super Stock SS/AH Challenge; Top Sportsman Shootout; and “King of the Bayou” Shootout for Super Comp, Super Gas and Super Street.

COUGHLIN FAMILY RACES ON: Two members of the Coughlin family – a longtime drag racing clan well established as owners of marquee event sponsor JEG’S Automotive, Inc of Delaware, Ohio, will compete in this weekend’s race. Jeg Coughlin Jr. will hit the quarter mile in the Super Stock HEMI Shootout and Top Dragster, while Troy Coughlin will compete in Top Sportsman.

TICKETS: General admission tickets are $20 each day. For ticket information, contact No Problem Raceway Park at (985) 369-3692. For additional information about the event, visit nhra.com or noproblemraceway.com.

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