BELLE ROSE, La. (March 19) – A field of more than 500 of the nation’s best sportsman drag racers has packed the pit area at No Problem Raceway Park in Belle Rose, La., for the opening day of the sixth annual JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals. The first of three SPORTSnationals events backed by JEGS Mail Order, the No Problem event has long been a favorite of racers across North America.
Among the early qualifying leaders are former national champion Frank Aragona Jr., of Freehold, N.J. who is currently in the No. 1 spot in Comp eliminator and Art Leong of Richmond Hill, Ga., who is the top qualifier in Super Stock behind the wheel of his ’95 Dodge. Wade Owens of Cape Girardeau, Mo., topped a field of more than 100 Stock Eliminator drivers with his ’66 Chevelle.
Tom Elliott and John Benoit are the provisional leaders in Top Dragster and Top Sportsman, respectively. Elliott, of Brooks, Ky., drove his dragster to a 6.14 at over 226-mph for the No. 1 spot in Top Dragster while Benoit, of Montpelier, Vt. wheeled his ’68 Camaro to a 6.47 to lead all qualifiers in Top Sportsman. All 32-qualifiers in Top Dragster are in the six-second zone with Shane Vicknair of Laplace, La., holding down the final spot in the field with a run of 6.91-seconds.
Competitors in Super Stock and Stock have completed qualifying and will begin eliminations tomorrow while drivers in Comp, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman drivers will have additional qualifying rounds on Saturday.
As expected, the JEGS Mail Order team is in the thick of the battle as reigning North Central Division Top Sportsman champ Mike Coughlin is currently qualified third for the 32 car field and up-and-coming Super Comp driver T.J. Coughlin made several successful time trail runs behind the wheel of his JEGS.com dragster.
After two qualifying runs, Mike sits in the No. 3 spot with his JEGS.com Cobalt following a best of 6.68-seconds on Friday. Mike also recorded the fastest speed of his career with a 207.66 mph run. He trails only Benoit and Keith Raftery, of Lake Charles, La., on the provisional qualifying chart.
“I made the two quickest runs of my career today which was a lot of fun,” said Coughlin, a former winner of the Belle Rose event. “We made some changes to our engine program over the winter in order to gain a little bit more performance and it definitely paid off. The 6.73 run was not real smooth but we adjusted the wheelie bar and moved some weight around and the second run was much better. We thought it would run a 6.69 and it went 6.68. It’s hard to be much more consistent than that.”
T.J., Coughlin, making his first appearance since his landmark win at last November’s NHRA Las Vegas Nationals, posed a pair of competitive efforts with runs of 8.885 and 8.896 on the 8.90-second index.
“I’m pretty happy with my runs today,” said T.J. “We just looked at the weather, made a few quick adjustments, and the car responded. It ran exactly what we expected it to run. Other than testing, I haven’t been in the car for a couple of months so it was really good to get back out here again.”
Mike’s son, Jack, also had the opportunity to make exhibition runs with his JEGS Jr. Dragster during the event.