LAS VEGAS (April 2) — Five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. already has a long-running love affair with The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and it's one he plans on continuing this weekend when he'll attempt to win two more times in his Dodge Avenger.

"Our spirits are very high," he said. "We love Las Vegas and we love the way the season has started for us. We've already been to two final rounds in the first three races and we're less than a round worth of points off of the No. 1 ranking, so obviously this new partnership with Allen Johnson is going well. We're ready to race."

Coughlin teamed with reigning world champion Johnson in the off-season to give Mopar a two-pronged attack in the cutthroat Pro Stock category. Using J&J Racing horsepower, Coughlin reset both ends of his career-best numbers at the last NHRA race in Florida when he posted a 6.487-second run at 213.23 mph.

"It's exciting to roll through the gates and know you have a great car and a real chance of winning the race every weekend," Coughlin said. "The challenge for the whole team now is to keep the momentum of this hot start going and carry it forward."

Aside from the usual Las Vegas national event trophy, one he's claimed on five occasions in the past (2000, 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2009), Coughlin also will be contesting the crown of the K&N Horsepower Challenge. The special race-within-a-race invites the top seven drivers from the last 12 months, plus a wildcard entry voted in by the fans, to race for a $50,000 first prize.

For the second year in a row, Coughlin was voted into the event by the fans. He's previously won the top prize in 1999, 2000 and 2009.

"Our fans are the best and I'm truly humbled," Coughlin said. "I send out my heartfelt thanks to everyone that voted for us. It means so much.

"It gives you lots of confidence to be running as well as we have this year and it's neat to now have this chance to win the K&N Horsepower Challenge. The only downside to it all is that I have Allen in Round 1. He just beat me in the final at Gainesville so maybe it's my turn. I'm certainly going to give it a shot."

The event begins with two rounds of professional qualifying at 2:30 and 5 p.m., Friday. Action then shifts to the K&N Horsepower Challenge, which will contest its three elimination rounds at 12:30, 2:15 and 3:25 p.m., Saturday. Elimination rounds for the national event begin at noon, Sunday. All action will be shown on ESPN2.



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