Brainerd: Jeg Coughlin preview

NHRA Pro Stock - Minnesota versus Ohio? It's not a natural border rivalry, but the intense competition in the NHRA's Pro Stock class, where races are routinely decided by thousandths of a second, has unwittingly pitted Minnesota and ...

NHRA Pro Stock - Minnesota versus Ohio?

It's not a natural border rivalry, but the intense competition in the NHRA's Pro Stock class, where races are routinely decided by thousandths of a second, has unwittingly pitted Minnesota and Ohio against one another for decades. This enmity is sure to heat up this weekend as the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minn., roars to life.

Smack dab in the middle of the fray is Jeg's Mail Order professional Jeg Coughlin, of Columbus, Ohio, who has split the last four POWERade championships with denizens of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Coughlin won the world title in 2000 and 2002, while Warren Johnson of Virginia, Minn., and Greg Anderson of Duluth, Minn., claimed the crowns in 2001 and 2003, respectively.

Not surprisingly, this year's standings show the top six drivers in the class evenly divided between Minnesotans and Ohioans.

"It's interesting, isn't it?" Coughlin asked. "I'm not sure why it's shaken out this way. Maybe we're all from two states where hard work and fair play are valued standards.

"Pro Stock is a pretty small family of people. There are really only 20-25 full-time teams and we all know each other well. There are people you get close to and others you don't, but we all respect one another and certainly those of us fortunate enough to win it all appreciate the work it takes to earn a title, no matter who ultimately gets it done."

While Anderson's record-setting run this season stacks the odds in favor of a homegrown victory in 2004, Coughlin's record at Brainerd International Raceway and recent performance spike suggests he could play the role of spoiler. Coughlin has two victories and one runner-up finish to his credit in Brainerd. He beat Anderson in the 2002 final and six-time series winner Warren Johnson during the 1999 running of the event. Coughlin also took runner-up honors to Johnson's son Kurt in 2000.

"We used to be one or two hundredths of a second behind Warren and Kurt," Coughlin said. "Now we're the same margin behind Greg and Jason [Line, Anderson's teammate, who hails from Wright, Minn.] We've certainly spent some time chasing Minnesotans. But in between they had to chase us for awhile. It seems to go back and forth.

"The thing is no one ever seems to get too far ahead of the pack in this class. That's why Pro Stock is considered the closest racing in all of motorsports. Greg's the shining star right now but there have been vulnerabilities at times. If a team makes all the right calls with the car and the driver is on, races can be won, even against those guys."

Just like the ultimate prize, the POWERade championship, the title of the Brainerd race has passed between Minnesota and Ohio for the past several years. Coughlin hopes 2004 turns out to be a favorable visit for one particular Buckeye.

-www.teamjegs.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson