ST. LOUIS (April 28) — Reigning Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. looks at the first quarter of the 2008 POWERade Drag Racing Series and just shakes his head. A winner of 52 national events and four world titles, Coughlin has seen his share of nip-and-tuck drag racing competition, but even a proven veteran like Coughlin can’t remember too many times when the class has been so cutthroat.

“In six races we’ve had five different winners, six different guys as No. 1 qualifiers, and four changes at the top of the points,” Coughlin said. “It’s been crazy. There is no room to breath and just about every race, from Round 1 to the finals, is decided by thousandths of a second. It’s stressful, but I love it.”

The season has started well for Coughlin. He’s driven his Chevrolet Cobalt to one win, one runner-up finish, two third-place results, and a pair of quarterfinal endings. He’s held the No. 1 ranking twice, once after his victory in Gainesville, Fla., and again after the Las Vegas event.

Heading into this weekend’s 12th annual O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, Coughlin is 24 points out of the lead in second place. The nearest competitor behind him is 37 points back.

“Every point has added significance,” Coughlin said. “We’re all trying to position ourselves for the Countdown to the Championship. After the first 18 races, the NHRA is cutting the group down to 10 teams that can still win the championship so the first goal is to make that group. Obviously, the sooner you can accomplish that the better, so these early races mean a bunch.”

Coughlin hopes to add to his successes this weekend under the famous St. Louis Arch. He won this race in 2002 and was runner-up to teammate Dave Connolly one year ago.

“I love the track and the fans in that area of the country,” said the 37-year-old from Delaware, Ohio. “It’s really neat to roll through the staging lanes and look across the river and see that Arch. It’s such an iconic symbol of the United States.

“We’ve done well here in the past, which always lifts your spirits, and our car is in top form heading into this year’s race. The guys in the engine shop are giving us great power and the track crew has been flawless.

“This team that Victor Cagnazzi put together is very competitive so when the racing gets close, like it has been all year, they tend to get excited and even more focused then they were before. It lights them up. We’ll be ready to get after it this weekend.”


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