CHARLOTTE (Aug. 6) — For the first time in his 22-year career, Troy Coughlin will enter a drag race as the No. 1 driver in the country when he takes his class-leading Pontiac GXP Pro Street racecar into this weekend’s inaugural Nitto Tire All Star Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.

“This is really neat,” Coughlin said. “Things are looking really good for us right now and we’re very excited to race at zMax Dragway. They say it’s the best drag strip in the world and we can’t wait to run our car down there and see how it looks.

“My brother Jeg tested his Pro Stock car there just the other day and told me the track’s in great shape. It is going to be hotter than Chicago (site of the last NMCA event) so we’ll have to adjust for that, but if we can keep the same tune-up and have the same kind of consistency and results then I like our chances.”

The recently completed fourth annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing at Route 66 Raceway in Chicago was a dream race for Coughlin. He not only set a national record of 6.279 seconds and won the event to take the point lead, but Coughlin’s racecar was by far the most consistent hot rod on the property, posting every run during the weekend within a window of three hundredths of a second.

“We’ve got a great racecar and we really just need to maintain what we’ve been doing,” Coughlin said. “There are three races left and if we can win another race or two we’d probably be able to seal this deal up. Our focus has always been on going rounds and that’s the way we’ll continue to race. If we go at least a few rounds at each the last three races, we should be right there at the end.

“There are still six or seven guys that can win the title. It’s wide open. Right now, we’re on top and that’s a nice spot to be in. We’re going to enjoy every moment of this.”

Entering this weekend’s race, Coughlin leads with 1,650 points, followed by defending series champion Vinny Budano (1,550), Chris Rini (1,450), Joe Dunn (1,350), Bob Vorderer (1,250), Noel Felton (1,240), Vincent Demieri (1,225), Bruce Poulos (1,125), Tony Christian (1,095), and Tony Mischoff (995).

“I’ve never led the points before and it’s exciting,” Coughlin said. “But the real goal is to win it all and get a championship ring. I’ve always admired my brother’s championship rings and last year Jeg offered to get me one for his Pro Stock title, but I want to earn one for myself. That’s the way it should be.”

Pro Street qualifying begins with sessions at 1 and 5 p.m. Friday. There will be one final round of qualifying at 9 a.m. Saturday before eliminations begin at 1 p.m. with the first of four rounds. The final three rounds will take place at 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m. Sunday.

The inaugural Nitto Tire All Star Nationals will air at 11:30 a.m. EST, Sept. 13, as part of the Inside Drag Racing show on FOX Sports Net. There will be a repeat broadcast at 4:30 p.m. EST, Sept. 14.


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