Situated an hour north of downtown Atlanta, Commerce, Ga., the site of this
weekend’s 25th annual NHRA Southern Nationals and 30-year home of Atlanta
Dragway, is living up to it’s oft-described “Hotlanta” nickname. Temperatures
have been soaring into the mid-80s each day and the humidity has parked itself
at about 90 percent.

It’s not exactly ideal conditions for naturally-aspirated, 500-cubic-inch Pro
Stock motors to make horsepower but former Atlanta champion Jeg Coughlin isn’t
about to make excuses after successfully qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations in
the No. 10 position with a 6.783 at 203.71 mph in the final session of
professional time trails.

“We’re all dealing with the same weather and the same racetrack,” Coughlin said.
“Adapting to the environment is a big part of professional drag racing. Those
who do it well, win, those who don’t generally go home early. Bob [Glidden, crew
chief] had this thing figured out by the fourth session and this car was flying.

“We’re deep in the field and that’s the first order of business. It’s quite a
bit different racing here than what we faced two weeks ago in Bristol but
everyone has the same variables to deal with so you must adapt. It’s hot, for
sure, but we had a day in Las Vegas when it got into the 80s and we got close in
Gainesville so it isn’t a foreign concept to race in the heat. It’ll probably be
hot from here on out.”

Coughlin will open Sunday’s action at 11 a.m. against No. 7 qualifier “Tricky
Rickie” Smith, who posted a 6.780 at 203.83 mph. The two have not raced each
other this year.

“We showed that we have the power to run mid-6.7-second passes in the heat so
we’re confident in our ability to go rounds,” Coughlin said. “We’ve just got to
get that power down onto the racetrack.”

Considering his Saturday night plans, Coughlin might be a little sleepy in the
morning. As soon as the fourth round of qualifying ended Saturday afternoon, he
loaded up in a private jet and flew home to Columbus, Ohio, for a special
“Celebration of Life” dinner where his family will be honored for their contributions to the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University, one of the beneficiaries of the Jeg’s Foundation’s Racing for Cancer Research program. The gala is expected to bring in more than $1 million.

“It’s quite an honor for these people to hold this dinner for us,” Coughlin
said. “It will be a special night for all of us and we’re very much looking
forward to our evening.”


Sunday May 15, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 15, ESPN2 will televise three hours of final eliminations at 7 p.m. (ET).

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