Charlotte: Jeg Coughlin Jr preview

Reigning champ is ready and previews inaugural Charlotte race CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 6) -- Reigning NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. knows a thing or two about breaking-in new racetracks. Five times in his illustrious career, ...

Reigning champ is ready and previews inaugural Charlotte race

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 6) -- Reigning NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. knows a thing or two about breaking-in new racetracks. Five times in his illustrious career, Coughlin has managed to win debut races at new places, so when the 53-time national event winner offers his opinions on fresh quarter-mile strips, it's safe to assume he knows what he's talking about.

Professional drag racing arrives in the Charlotte area Sept. 11-14 with the inaugural Carolina NHRA Nationals at Bruton Smith's much-ballyhooed, $60-million zMax Dragway at Concord. Strip away the bountiful amenities at the "Bellagio of Drag Strips" and there's still a race to be contested. That means two cars, lined-up side-by-side, running down the 1,320 with one winner advancing and one loser going home.

"In general, new drag strips take a little time to get enough rubber down to allow us to apply a lot of horsepower to the racing surface," said Coughlin, driver of the JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt. "As wonderful as the track prep usually is with the NHRA folks and the local track officials, you just can't duplicate Top Fuel and Funny Cars and the rubber they can put down, especially from mid-track to the finish line.

"At the same time, we have to remember that the Concord strip is made entirely of concrete. That gives you exceptionally good grip, in general, but we also need to be ready for a narrow grove like we have in Dallas (the only other all-concrete strip on the circuit), so that could play into it as well. Under normal circumstances, we'd probably see crew chiefs being very conservative at the start. But, as we know, these aren't normal circumstances. I'll tell you what; we could be in for a crazy weekend."

The wild card situation Coughlin believes will spice things up quite a bit at zMax Dragway is the start of the Countdown to 1 -- the NHRA's six-race playoff. The top-10 racers from each professional category have been bunched back up in the point standings and will now participate in a winner-take-all sprint to the 2008 championship.

"It eliminates any wiggle room," said Coughlin, who starts the playoffs ranked third after racking up two wins in five final-round showings during the regular season. "Every point seems much bigger now. At this point, everyone in the playoffs has the same dream -- to take the title from us -- so there will be a mentality of going for broke right from the start.

"We have to hit the ground running. Being that Victor Cagnazzi Racing is based right up the road in Mooresville, the entire staff will be there to help us kick things off with our best effort possible. That should really give us an edge. It's exciting, but a little nerve-wracking as well.

"I've always been a big fan of drag racing and this is one of those races where I'd love to be up in those beautiful grandstands watching the action. It will be intense."

With numerous friends and associates in the world of NASCAR, Coughlin is also anticipating an intriguing weekend in the center of the stock car world.

"I think we're going to gain a bunch of new fans," the four-time world champ said. "Drag racing is a very exciting form of motorsports and the fact we're coming here with so much on the line is really going to give the fans something special to see.

"I also can't say enough about Bruton and Marcus Smith and what they've created here with zMax Dragway. This place is first-class. Every time they build a new facility they find a way to out-shine the last one, which doesn't seem possible. It's going to raise the level of our sport to new heights."

-credit: team jegs

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin