CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 20) — In the NHRA's 67 years of organized drag racing, only one driver — Jeg Coughlin Jr. — has won national event titles in seven different categories. At this weekend's 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, Coughlin will try to extend that incredible mark to eight when he tries to win a Wally in Phil Unruh's Top Sportsman Corvette in addition to his regular work in the JEGS.com/Elite Performance Pro Stocker.
Coughlin has collected a whopping 76 national event trophies in his illustrious career, taking home the hardware in Pro Stock, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas and Top Dragster. The six-time national champ says adding a Top Sportsman trophy to his collection would be very special but he knows it won't be easy.
"My brother Mike raced Top Sportsman for many years, winning a couple of D3 titles in that class, and I can tell you from watching him race it's an extremely tough eliminator," Coughlin said. "I'm excited to give it a go and having the honor of racing Phil Unruh's brand new Corvette is super special. Phil's a regular in our JEGS Allstars races, which speaks volumes of his ability and his equipment.
"I know I will have the best car and motor possible so the pressure will be on me to execute behind the wheel. I do enjoy the races where I have more than one car because you really stay in the zone, as it were, all weekend. This should be fun."
Coughlin opened his 2018 Pro Stock campaign last weekend in Pomona where he lost a close first-round race to teammate Erica Enders. The result left him tied for 10th with two other drivers.
"You know, Pomona didn’t go quite the way we were looking for it to go but Phoenix is a new start for us," he said. "It looked like our performance was trying to turn the corner there a little bit Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning in Pomona so we are definitely looking forward to this weekend and a chance to pick up the pace of the pack.
"It was good to have a week and change between these first two events. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into the front of the season, getting things kicked off and started in Pomona for media outlets and obviously getting the cars prepared and on track. Now that's done we can settle in and really start racing."
Coughlin and team tested in Phoenix three weeks ago, which could help in their preparation for this weekend's tilt.
"We were really fast in testing here and I think we should be able to unload with some good data we gained then," he said. "Time will tell here shortly but I would say we will definitely be tuning off our test runs, at least on Friday.
"Pro Stock is an extremely tough field. Cars are literally separated by a hundredth or two between No. 1 and say, Nos. 10, 11, 12, so crew chiefs have to be on their best behavior, drivers have got to hit their shift points perfectly every time and navigate these tracks really, really efficiently because a lot is on the line every pass."
Top Sportsman qualifying sessions begin at 8 a.m., Friday, with eliminations starting at 8 a.m., Saturday.
Pro Stock qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4:30 p.m., Friday, and 1:30 and 4 p.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at noon, Sunday. FOX Sports 1 will carry the first day qualifying action live from 5-6 p.m., Friday, with more qualifying highlights airing from 9-10 p.m., Saturday. Live eliminations will air on FOX Sports 2 from 7-10 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)