CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 23) — There's snow on the mountains behind Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park — a site most drag racers have never seen at this facility — and racing conditions have been tricky, with two qualifying sessions lost to cold temperatures, but Jeg Coughlin Jr. still managed to find a quick way the quarter-mile to qualify seventh at this weekend's 35th annual Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals.
"We qualified ninth in Pomona (Calif., at the season opener) and seventh here so we are moving in the right direction," Coughlin said. "Of course, both rounds were lost yesterday due to the cold, it was cold here a month ago when we tested at this track, and it was cold in Pomona two weeks back so we're really getting a work out, so to speak, running on cold surfaces.
"Today's sun was wonderful and although our car still isn't completely happy riding down through there at this point, we did have nice start in both of today's runs. It's just that area from about 200 feet to 500 feet that's tricky, and you can feel it as you roll through the gears. We've got some massaging to do but I have faith in our group to sort it all out."
Coughlin's best run was a 6.544-second blast at 210.34 mph, which places him opposite Greg Anderson in Sunday's opening round of eliminations. Anderson topped out at 6.564 and 210.57 mph, so Coughlin will have lane choice. No two racers in class history have squared off more often than Coughlin and Anderson.
"We can be more efficient and naturally run quicker so I think we are in a good spot going into tomorrow," Coughlin said. "I feel real comfortable behind the wheel and when it's Sunday, it's game day, so it's time to go.
"You've definitely got to mind your p's and q's, so to speak, and be on your best behavior when you race Greg. We know the capability of that team over there and we know how good Greg is in the car. We will be up there to exceed his performance this time and get to the finish line first."
As for the weather, well, forecasts are calling for lots of cloud cover but no more rain.
"I think if the sun can poke through and give us a track like we had today, that would be great," Coughlin said. "It's always better when there's a little bit of heat in the track. If it ends up cloudy and we get a cooler track, we will have to be crafty on that as well."
Pro Stock eliminations begin at noon.