GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16) — The opening day of the 38th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals couldn’t have been much better for three-time world champion drag racer Jeg Coughlin Jr. The 37-year-old from Delaware, Ohio, paced an extremely quick Pro Stock field as the top qualifier of the day, while also scoring his second class trophy of the year in Super Stock.

Coughlin’s big run in Pro Stock — a 6.632-second strike at 207.75 mph — placed his streamline Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevrolet Cobalt atop an impressive field of factory hot rods. Including his Victor Cagnazzi Racing teammate Dave Connolly, who was close behind with a 6.652 at 208.17 mph — Slammers racecars occupy two of the top three spots at the midway point of qualifying.

“Obviously the whole crew is doing a great job, on both sides of the pit,” Coughlin said. “We have a true team mentality here so it’s just as important for Dave to be quick as it is for me. It’s really nice when we both hit good runs like that, especially this weekend with all our Slammers’ friends here.

“There’s not much to complain about with that second run. The car was nice and smooth and just felt great all the way through the gears and out the back half. Dave tested both of our cars last week and the little adjustments they made obviously worked well for both of us. We’re all very pleased.”

Although he’s claimed 47 NHRA national event wins, Coughlin isn’t exactly known for his low qualifying efforts. In fact, since turning professional in 1997, Coughlin has just eight top qualifier plaques. But if he manages to hold on through Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions, he’ll rack up his first pole since the Dallas race in the fall of 2004, a span of 53 races.

“It’s not something we’ve aimed for in the past,” Coughlin said, “because we’ve always been so focused on race day performance. But the bottom line is that the guys in the engine department are making big power and if we can show that off a little bit and put a feather in their cap, I’m all for it.

“It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow so we’ll all be quicker I would assume. If we’re fortunate enough to hold onto the No. 1 spot, that plaque will go straight to the engine shop so those guys can see all those long hours do pay off.”

In Super Stock, Coughlin was the quickest of his C-Modified brethren, instantly claiming his second class trophy of the year (he also won in Phoenix three weeks ago.) Now he’ll try to win the main event in his Chevy Cavalier out of the No. 12 qualifying position after running three consistent passes of 8.788 at 154.81 mph, 8.806 at 155.58 mph, and 8.821 at 154.65 mph.

“Any time you win a Wally it’s a thrill and to have two already this year is special,” Coughlin said. “The car is flawless. It has been all season. And I really enjoy driving it. Let’s see if we can win the big trophy now.”

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