POMONA, Calif. – Every season Jeg Coughlin says he anxiously counts the days until the start of the Winternationals. So you can imagine the popular Ohio Pro Stock driver’s eagerness to be a part of the 50th annual edition of one of NHRA’s most tradition-rich and historic races.
Not only does the event mark the beginning of a new season, but for Coughlin it marks an event at a track where the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt driver has excelled since he turned pro in 1997.
Maybe Auto Club Raceway at Pomona just fits the eye of Midwestern-based Pro Stock drivers. Just like Indiana’s Bob Glidden, the winningest pro driver in Winternationals history with seven victories, Coughlin has put together a strong performance record at this track. Of his 10 career finals and six wins at Pomona, two wins and four finals have come at the Winternationals.
Coughlin will be among the Pro Stock favorites at the 50th annual Kragen O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Valvoline, Feb. 11-14. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.
“Pomona and the Fairplex are always electric at the Winternationals,” Coughlin said. “When you roll onto those historic grounds for the first race of the year there is just a lot of excitement in the air. All the new teams, new colors and most importantly, everybody has a fresh start in the points. There is a lot of media coverage and the fans literally come from all over the world to attend that race. It just really makes you want to focus that much more to go out and perform and win the Winternationals.”
He says the secret to success at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is essentially the same at all tracks: preparation. Last year he didn’t win the Winternationals, but Coughlin’s JEGS.com team’s pre-season preparation paid big dividends. He raced to seven victories in nine final rounds in the first 18 events to finish the regular season as the top seed for the Countdown to 1 playoffs.
“Without question, being prepared is the key,” Coughlin said. “You have almost three months to prepare for the first race and getting out of the gate with momentum is very important to having a good season.”
Last season veteran driver Mike Edwards ultimately won the championship, his first as a driver. He will be back this year to defend his title with a new sponsor in Interstate Batteries. He is one of the drivers Coughlin figures to battle in the championship hunt. Others include four-time Winternationals winner Greg Anderson, defending winner Line, Team Mopar Avenger driver Allen Johnson, fourth-place points finisher Greg Stanfield and the always-tough veteran drivers Ron Krisher and Johnny Gray.
“It will be interesting to see how our off-season efforts stack up within the Pro Stock ranks,” Coughlin said. “There are three or four teams with multiple cars that have been awesome and we feel as though we will be back in the mix again with them. We will approach the season similar to 2009 and that is to be prepared, drive aggressive and put ourselves in a position to win rounds and win races.”
* SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Feb. 11-12 and at noon and 3 p.m. on Feb. 13. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14.