GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 11) — Fresh off his world championship run at the top level of National Muscle Car Association competition, veteran drag racer Troy Coughlin will return to Pro Mod in 2010 beginning with this weekend’s season-opening 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Coughlin realized a dream in ’09 when he mastered the NMCA’s Pro Street category. Looking for a new challenge, he elected to build a ’68 Camaro and return to a class he’s raced in the past, most recently in 2007. The move was largely precipitated by NHRA’s decision to make Pro Mod a competition class. In the past, it was run as an exhibition category.

“The chance to race for a Wally is the talk of the Pro Mod community right now,” said Coughlin, who already owns several of the little gold statues from previous wins in Pro Stock, Super Gas, and Super Comp. “We’re excited to race Pro Mod again. It’s a wild category and it’s really gotten quick in the last few years. I can’t wait to get started.”

Unlike year’s past when he raced a supercharged machine, Coughlin has made the move to NOS power, which he admits took some adjustment time.

“It really gets up and goes with the NOS power adder,” he said. “We had a lot to test but our time in Bradenton (Fla.) really paid off for us. Not only did we have a new car to figure out but we had a new driver in the sense I had never driven a NOS car before. It’s something that takes a little time to adjust to.”

Coughlin leaned heavily on crew chief “Tricky Rickie” Smith, a multi-time world champion who joined the JEGS team in the off-season.

“Rickie’s blended right into the team,” said Coughlin, the Pro Stock runner-up in Gainesville in 2000. “His knowledge of Pro Mod cars is unequalled and the fact he can jump in the car and drive it himself is a real plus. Since he has driven these cars for so long, he really knows what I’m saying when I talk about a run.

“With Rickie on the motors, Brian (Metzenheim) has been able to focus all his time on the chassis, and Clint (Allerton) and Mike (Rees) have been workhorses, as usual. I really like this team and I think we’re all expecting big things.”

Entering Gainesville, Coughlin expects a tough fight for the Victory Circle, but after several five-second runs in testing, he’s confident he’ll be in the mix.

“I think we can qualify in the fast half of the field,” he said. “That’s always the first task. If we can do that, get to eliminations, and limit our mistakes, we can make a run at this thing. We’re very new, but there’s a lot of experience in this pit.

“Having won the NMCA title last year, I don’t know if that erases the butterflies, but it definitely keeps you in a more relaxed state of mind. We always concentrate on having fun and that won’t change. Of course, when you’re winning, it’s a lot more fun.”

Qualifying begins Friday.


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