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COUGHLIN GEARING UP FOR PRO STOCK TITLE RUN IN 1999 POMONA, Calif. -- A season that included four victories, seven final round appearances and a second place Winston points finish in the world of NHRA Pro Stock competition might...

COUGHLIN GEARING UP FOR PRO STOCK TITLE RUN IN 1999 POMONA, Calif. -- A season that included four victories, seven final round appearances and a second place Winston points finish in the world of NHRA Pro Stock competition might be considered a landmark achievement for many drivers in the ultra-competitive category. Jeg Coughlin isn't your average Pro Stock driver. Indeed, the 1998 NHRA Winston Rookie of the Year had an incredible break-through season behind the wheel of his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass. Expected to be gushing about his accomplishments from the previous season, Coughlin calmly presents a stone face and says the events of the year provided his young team with a very good learning experience. Nothing more, nothing less. Learning experience? If his remarkable 1998 season was truly a year spent taking notes, his competition needs to buckle-up extra tight in 1999. Unless the mythical 'Sophomore Jinx' rears its ugly head, the talented 28-year-old driver could run away with his first Winston championship. Did we mention that Coughlin isn't superstitious? "We feel really confident about our chances," said Coughlin. "We had what we consider to be quite a learning year in 1998 and still managed to win some races. We fought hard all year long to win the championship and finished with a respectable second place effort. Hopefully we can take what we learned and apply that this season and make some better decisions when we are faced with some similar situations. Certainly we have all the resources available as far as equipment and a talented crew. No doubt, we're going to really make a hard charge for the Winston championship." Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, will begin his quest for Winston championship glory at the 39th annual AutoZone Winternationals, Feb. 4-7 at Pomona Raceway. The $1.7-million race is the first of 22 events in the $40-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1999. Coughlin realizes that a successful claim to the NHRA Winston Pro Stock championship will only be made by knocking off the category's current kingpin, Warren Johnson. The GM Goodwrench driver won nine races in 12 final rounds in 1999. "He's got the number on his car that everyone wants, so he's still the guy everyone will be shooting for," Coughlin said. "It's going to be very tough to win the championship this season. NHRA Pro Stock racing is extremely competitive from top to bottom. You've got to be consistent in qualifying and racing and have a little luck along the way. We're looking forward to an exciting season." * Air shifters only a memory in 1999: A major rule change in Pro Stock has forced many competitors to spend extra hours testing during the off-season. The NHRA General Rules Committee proclaimed that air shifters would be prohibited in Pro Stock in 1999 and that all gear changes would have to be performed manually by the driver. Coughlin says the rule change really isn't a big deal. "I'm sure it'll have its challenges at times," said Coughlin. "If the car moves out of the groove even the slightest bit it's going to be a lot different as far as trying to control the car and keep it going straight down the track. Hopefully everyone will be able to make the proper adjustments to manually shifting the car. I'm sure it will become old hat for most of the drivers after the first few events."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson