GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 6) — Drag racers always say there are few things that boost their confidence more than returning to an event as the defending race champion, but Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. might have one-upped himself as the tour turns to the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

The 38-year-old pro not only arrives at this historic race as the defending event champ, he also comes to town fresh off a big victory at the NHRA’s last stop in Phoenix. Just two points out of the current Full Throttle lead, Coughlin also hits town as the reigning and back-to-back world champion in a class most consider to be the toughest in all motorsports.

“We’ve been on a tremendous roll, for sure,” said Coughlin, who also won the Gatornationals in 2001. “Last season was an incredible ride for us and yet somehow we’re a little ahead of where we were as we’ve already won a race. The Gators was our first win of the season last year but we managed to take the trophy in Phoenix so we’re feeling great coming into the race.

“I think what really has us excited is we all feel there is room for us to improve. We’re still a hundredth of a second or two behind a few other cars and this class has always been measured in hundredths of a second so we need to continue working on tidying up our tune-up and making this Chevrolet Cobalt as efficient as it can be.”

Helping the team reach that goal in Florida will be Jeg Coughlin Sr., who regularly consults with crew chief Roy Simmons and his son on the engine tune-up and chassis set-up. Most of the time, at least early in the year, Coughlin Sr. keeps in touch over the Internet and via cellular phones, but he’ll actually be in attendance at this event, which is just up the road from his vacation home.

Also on hand will be the team’s good luck charm, Jeg III, who will be on spring break from his school studies.

“It’s always a big boost for us whenever Pops is able to attend a race,” Coughlin Jr. said. “His wealth of knowledge is incomparable. He’s forgotten more than most people will ever know.

“Little Jeggie is already living up to his role of our good luck charm. He was in Phoenix and we won the race. You can’t do much better then that. It’s awesome when his school schedule allows for him to come to the races.

“This is going to be a huge race for us. We’ve got a lot of momentum but we’ve still got to start from square one when we get there and make some solid qualifying passes. This class is so tough and nothing is ever handed to you. I love the Gators because it’s our first visit to the East Coast and the race has so much history. It’s one of the races you grew up reading about, wanting to be there in the sunshine. Hopefully the sun will shine on us again this year.”

Coughlin points out the need for all of the racers to put on a great show in Gainesville as elimination rounds of the event will be shown from 3-6 p.m. ET on ESPN.

“It’s a big stage for us and we need to put our best foot forward,” Coughlin Jr. said.


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