TOPEKA, Kan. (May 15) -- Five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger race team are hoping this weekend's 24th annual Dollar General NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka will kick off a successful summer that will ultimately earn them a berth in the 2012 playoffs.
"One of the primary goals when we started this race team was to run well enough in the regular season to get a spot in the Countdown to the Championship," Coughlin said. "That remains our top priority. We have 10 races left before the cutoff, including Topeka, so every event is important."
Coughlin has tasted success in Topeka in the past, winning the event outright in 2000, his first championship season in the Pro Stock category. He'll be looking to duplicate that feat this time through, although just going a few rounds on Sunday would be a nice pick-me-up for his race team.
"We've been tested this year, for sure," he said. "Probably much more than any of us expected. We've got a fairly young group, but it's an experienced group.
"Right now, we're five or six hundredths behind the top teams. We probably have three hundredths sitting right here in the pit that we just need to find through the set-up. The other three is going to have to come from some additional horsepower. We're working very hard to improve in both areas."
Like the last few stops in Atlanta and Houston, Coughlin expects weather conditions to play a substantial factor in the race outcome, both during qualifying and eliminations.
"You never quite know what to expect in Kansas at this time of the year," Coughlin said. "We plan for heat, but you also know there could be a rain shower or two blowing through there that could cool it down. You can just about bet on a strong wind but at least it usually goes straight down the track one way or the other.
"We've had some great runs in Topeka and some nice wins in the past for the family. We enjoy going there because the fans are fun and it's one of those marquee events on one of the big road course tracks. It's kind of neat to see that."
Coughlin will be racing two cars in Topeka. In addition to his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger in Pro Stock, he'll be piloting his JEGS.com HEMI-powered Drag Pak Dodge Challenger in the Stock class.
"I've had a lot of fun with that car all year," Coughlin said. "Stock is a very tough class but it keeps me sharp and I really enjoy the diversion."