LAS VEGAS (Oct. 22) — A drag racer with five world championships and 66 national events tends to find inspiration at every turn. For Jeg Coughlin Jr., a trip to Las Vegas for the upcoming NHRA Nationals offers a unique chance to race in front of one of the most diverse audiences in the sport, something he finds to be quite a thrill.

“Las Vegas is one of those destination cities,” he said. “I’ve met fans there that have flown in from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Europe, and all across the continental U.S. It’s just one of those races where people can make a vacation out of it so it tends to be a really fun event.

“As a driver, when you can perform on an international stage like that, it’s very exciting. You raise your performance level automatically because it just has that Super Bowl feeling when you’re there, especially in that massive stadium. I love the place.”

It seems The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway loves Coughlin right back. He’s won five national events there — in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008, and 2009 — and claimed low qualifier honors twice, in 2007 and 2008.

“The surface is always in great shape and it’s a bit of a driver’s track because at certain times of the day the sun can play tricks on the Christmas Tree,” he said. “Then there are times when it cools off pretty dramatically, or conversely where it stays hot. You have to stay in tune to all of those things if you want to succeed there.”

Taking a sixth trophy from Sin City is on top of Coughlin’s list this time through. A less-than-perfect start to this year’s Countdown to 1 playoffs has left him a longshot for the 2010 title but he remains confident in his team’s abilities.

“We’ve won four times this year and only one driver has done better than that so we’ve certainly shown the potential,” Coughlin said. “Our mindset has shifted a bit. We had a team meeting after Dallas and just said, ‘hey, let’s go have some fun at these last two races,’ and that’s what we plan on doing.

“The pressure’s off. We have sponsors we want to show off for and we’re always looking for more trophies so we’ll try to capture some of that brilliance we flashed at times this year and shake things up a bit.”

Pro Stock qualifying begins with two sessions at 12:15 and 3:45 p.m. Friday. Qualifying highlights will air Saturday night on ESPN2, while eliminations will be shown Sunday on ESPN.


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