Denver: Pro Stock previews

MORRISON, Colo. - The way Jeg Coughlin Jr.'s 2000 season started, he'd consider the last few races to be somewhat of a slump. A brief hiccup. The Columbus, Ohio driver opened with authority, winning six of the first seven races and building a...

MORRISON, Colo. - The way Jeg Coughlin Jr.'s 2000 season started, he'd consider the last few races to be somewhat of a slump. A brief hiccup.

The Columbus, Ohio driver opened with authority, winning six of the first seven races and building a Winston points lead that towers to 200 points over second place Ron Krisher. Since that dramatic outburst, Coughlin has been relatively quiet.

He suffered a rare first round loss on Memorial Day weekend at Dallas when older brother Troy used a holeshot start to defeat his quicker yellow and black Oldsmobile Cutlass. His other nemesis has been surprising Krisher, who defeated Coughlin in back-to-back semifinals in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. Coughlin hopes to regain his winning form at an event that he's dominated during the last two seasons, the 22nd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, July 13-16, at Bandimere Speedway, never Denver. The $1.8 million race is the 13th of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

He realizes the competition in Pro Stock is way too tough to win every race. But he can still try. He knows there are going to be minor bumps in the road to achieving any goal. And his goal is clear - winning the 2000 NHRA Winston championship.

"You don't have time to spend thinking too much about mistakes that you have made along the way," said Coughlin, who has finished second in points the last two seasons. "You have to learn from them and put your best foot forward after every race. Our team goal is to finish No. 1 and 2 when the season ends in Pomona. To accomplish this goal we must stay focused."

GAINES IS UP AND DOWN: When V. Gaines earned his first career Pro Stock victory earlier in the year at Dallas, it was a pretty emotional time. The journeyman driver from Lakewood, Colo., had spent many long hours dreaming of what it would be like to finally win in what's arguably the most competitive professional category eliminator of them all.

"I just went into that final focusing on my lane and what I was doing and not worrying about who I was racing," said Gaines, who defeated five-time champion Warren Johnson. "It was such an incredible feeling. I've wanted to win all my racing career, and I finally accomplished it."

Before winning he had failed to qualify at five events and posted first and second round losses at the other two. Despite his win at the Texas Motorplex, Gaines still hasn't been able to build any momentum, further illustrating how tough the 200-mph category is. He failed to qualify in back-to-back races in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio and posted a first round loss at St. Louis. Certainly, the Western Motorsports Chevy Camaro driver hopes his fortunes change at his hometown event, the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals.

"We didn't have a lot of momentum prior to that race in Dallas, it was just our time to win," Gaines said. "We felt good about this year, but we've had some gremlins in the car that we haven't been able to find. My guys have worked really hard and I'm glad that we were able to win so that they would be rewarded. We're going to continue to work on it and hopefully get another win down the road. It would be great if it could happen at Bandimere Speedway."

PARITY IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: At mid-season, the chase for the Winston championship in Pro Stock Motorcycle has the potential to be a one of the most exciting of any of the five professional categories in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Certainly, the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway will play a pivotal role in determining two-wheel title winners.

Team Winston Suzuki rider Angelle Seeling holds the points lead with three victories, while Trinidad, Colo. rider Matt Hines, the three-time defending series champion, is close behind in second with two wins. Four other riders, including Dave Schultz, Antron Brown, Tony Mullen and Craig Treble, are also heavy in the championship mix.

With six riders ready to decide the Winston championship, the outcome at this point looks to be very unpredictable and continue the trend from last season when Hines took the crown from Seeling by eight points in the final rounds of the last race.

"There are no easy rounds these days," said Hines, who trails Seeling by 79 points on his Eagle One Suzuki. "There's a lot of good talent in the class."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Ron Krisher , Craig Treble