Baytown: Round four preview

COUGHLIN HEADS TO HOUSTON WITH WINNING ON HIS MIND AS HE TRIES FOR THREE-PEAT IN COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP BAYTOWN, Texas - When Jeg Coughlin surveys the Pro Stock landscape in 2009, he sees several improved teams and an increased level ...


BAYTOWN, Texas - When Jeg Coughlin surveys the Pro Stock landscape in 2009, he sees several improved teams and an increased level of competition overall.

That just makes the two-time defending NHRA Pro Stock world champ hungrier to secure his third consecutive NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series crown. It is a feat that only three drivers have been able to accomplish in the history of the 200-mph category: Bob Glidden, the late Lee Shepherd and Greg Anderson.

However, Coughlin knows that in order to join that elite group of drivers in the NHRA record books, he's going to have his work cut out for him. He understands the quickest way to win a championship is to win a bunch of races.

He says that's the team's main goal for the season. If they can win races, the points order and Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship will take care of itself.

"We are trying to approach this season as business as usual, but at the same time we would love to win another championship and get the three-peat," said Coughlin, a four-time Pro Stock champ (also 2000 and 2002). "We need to get consistent behind the wheel and in the pits in order to do it. We've got a little work to do but we're getting there. Our strategy for the Countdown is basically the same as the last two seasons, but we would like to get a few more wins this year. We feel like we left a few wins on the track last season. With a few more wins we can be in a better points position in the top 10 going into the Countdown (to 1)."

Coughlin, already a winner in Phoenix this year, hopes to add his second race victory of the season at the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil, the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship. Antron Brown, Del Worsham, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith are the defending winners of the race at Houston Raceway Park, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.

However, for that to happen, Coughlin knows his race team will need to produce a better effort than they had at the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals in Florida. Coughlin's Cobalt shut off early in a second round loss to eventual Gatornationals runner-up Allen Johnson.

"We had a dismal outing in Gainesville and just never got it all together," said Coughlin, a three-time winner at Houston Raceway Park (1997, 1998 and 2000). "We're looking forward to rebounding in Houston, a track where we've had some success in the past. It's a sea level track and can be very fast for the Pro Stock cars with the right conditions."

There are several Pro Stock cars that have proven to be fast this season under most conditions. Veteran racer Mike Edwards, a three-time winner at Houston, posted a runner-up finish at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif. and was the No. 1 qualifier at the last two races. Jason Line, the 2006 world champ and '07 Houston winner, has sprinted out to the early season lead with wins at Pomona and Gainesville. Gainesville runner-up Johnson has been fast, as have past Houston winners Greg Anderson and Kurt Johnson. Greg Stanfield, Rickie Jones and former NBA star Tom Hammonds also are drivers to watch at Houston.

In Top Fuel, three veteran drivers - Larry Dixon, Brandon Bernstein and Cory McClenathan - have all won this event two times. Dixon, who won the Gatornationals two weeks ago, is closing in on series points leader and defending race winner Brown. Pomona winner Doug Kalitta won at Houston in '03, while six-time world champ Tony Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to the win here in '05. Rookies Spencer Massey and Shawn Langdon are hoping to get their first career victories in the 7,000 horsepower category.

Second-year driver Bob Tasca raced to his first win in Funny Car at Gainesville and will try to add his second career victory at Houston. He'll have to hold off seven-time HRP winner John Force and his talented race team which includes '05 winner Robert Hight, Mike Neff and Ashley Force Hood. Tony Pedregon is a four time winner at Houston, and current points leader Ron Capps, driver of the NAPA Dodge Charger and winner of the first two races of the season, is a two-time winner at this event. Rookie Matt Hagan has been consistent in his Charger.

Pro Stock Motorcycle journeyman Hector Arana is leading the points for the first time in his 19-year career in the two-wheel category as he escaped with the win in Florida on his Lucas Oil Buell. Defending winner Smith, now riding a Suzuki for Don Schumacher Racing, was the quickest in Gatornationals qualifying; however he had a problem with his new Suzuki on race day. Other top bike competitors to watch include two-time Houston winner Karen Stoffer on the GEICO Powersports Suzuki, defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, who is still seeking his first career race win, a resurgent Shawn Gann and the always competitive Steve Johnson.

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27, and 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 29.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals by calling Houston Raceway Park at (281) 383-RACE or via

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, March 28. NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, will air at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 29 also on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD. Three hours and 30 minutes of eliminations coverage is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, March 29, on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD.

LUCAS OIL SERIES: The O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on March 27. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on March 28.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Shawn Gann , Bob Glidden , Cory McClenathan , Greg Stanfield , Tom Hammonds , Karen Stoffer , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Matthew Smith , Steve Johnson , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Rickie Jones , Eddie Krawiec , Mike Edwards , Mike Neff , Spencer Massey