COUGHLIN WANTS TO KEEP COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP MOMENTUM GOING WITH MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS PRO STOCK VICTORY INDIANAPOLIS - Jeg Coughlin has already qualified to defend his NHRA POWERade world championship title in the Countdown to 1.
COUGHLIN WANTS TO KEEP COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP MOMENTUM GOING WITH MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS PRO STOCK VICTORY
INDIANAPOLIS - Jeg Coughlin has already qualified to defend his NHRA POWERade world championship title in the Countdown to 1. However, he hopes his final points position in Pro Stock's Top 10 will change with a strong performance at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's most prestigious drag race.
Coughlin hopes an Indy victory will help him move into second place in the final regular season point standings, knowing from past experience that every point will be extremely valuable when the Top 10 Pro Stock teams gear up for the six-race playoff run in the Countdown to 1 that begins Sept. 11-14 at zMAX Dragway @ Concord near Charlotte, N.C.
When the Countdown to 1 begins, point totals will be reset for all Playoff competitors with a breakdown that includes a 30-point lead for the first place driver (2,090 points) over second place (2,060 points), followed by deductions of 10 points each for drivers in third (2,050 points) through 10th (1,980 points).
A victory two weeks ago in Reading, Pa. has Coughlin riding a wave of momentum into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at historic O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, Aug. 27-Sept. 1, the final race in the 18-event Countdown to 10, NHRA's regular season. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the traditional Labor Day weekend classic.
"We've been flirting with a win now for a while and it feels wonderful to get it done," said Coughlin of his second victory of the season and 40th overall. "The main thing is that we want to carry momentum into Indy and then the Playoffs and there's no better way to build up momentum than to go out there and turn on the win light. The closer we are to the No. 1 spot when the Playoffs start, the better it will be. We moved up to third with our Reading win and we could mathematically get as high as second in Indy, so that's what we'll try to do. We've been talking about getting that look back in our eye and I think we did that a little bit (in Reading)."
Coughlin is a two-time winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Pro Stock, and has also won the race in sportsman racing. He is well-aware of its position as the single greatest drag racing event in the world.
"Indy's been known as the granddaddy of them all and has been the biggest event on the NHRA tour for more than 50 years," Coughlin said. "To have an Indy win under your belt is very special. We have been fortunate to have had a lot of success at Indy as a family over the years and I look forward to doing what I can to continue that tradition this season. As a family, our overall win record there is pretty darn stout. For me, it's a trophy that ranks right up there with the POWERade championship trophy for sure."
In the world of Pro Stock, a few drivers have dominated the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, including nine-time winner Bob Glidden, six-time winner Warren Johnson and most recently, five-time winner Greg Anderson. In fact, only seven drivers among the more than 30 entries are former U.S. Nationals winners. Coughlin certainly wants to add to his two victories there.
"Indy is the race where you must have all your I's dotted and T's crossed going in there, and as a result of that, there have been quite a few multiple-time winners," he said. "Everybody comes to Indy with their guns loaded as heavy as they can from a chassis and engine standpoint as well as from a mental standpoint. It's just a marathon race with an extra day of racing and as a driver you have to be prepared for that."
The Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt driver put on a dominant driving display during last year's two-race Countdown to 1 to claim his third Pro Stock world championship. However he knows with six races and so many strong cars in the mix, repeating his championship effort will take a brand new focus and plenty of good old fashioned teamwork.
For Coughlin, his championship strategy begins at Indy.
"We're treating Indy as the first race of the Countdown (to 1)," Coughlin said. "It's the biggest race of the year and we want to win Indy. We're going into that race as best prepared as we can. We've got to get momentum on our side and never look back. There are so many great teams this year that I don't think anyone is going to run away with (the championship) in a six-race stretch once (the Countdown to 1) begins. We think it's going to take three wins in the last six races to win the POWERade championship. It's going to be a lot of fun. There'll be a lot of holeshot wins and some exciting racing."
While Coughlin hopes to move to second overall in the Countdown to 1, three drivers will be battling at Indy with hopes of making the Countdown to 1. Ron Krisher, Greg Stanfield and Warren Johnson will be competing for the final two open positions in the Top 10 points order. Krisher and Stanfield enter the race in ninth and 10th respectively, and Johnson sits 72 points out in 11th.
In addition to Coughlin and Anderson, others who have already secured their spots in the Countdown to 1and are among the favorites to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals include two-time Indy winner Kurt Johnson, defending Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner and Coughlin teammate Dave Connolly, Jason Line, Allen Johnson, '98 Indy winner Mike Edwards and V. Gaines.
SCHEDULE: The first of five pro qualifying sessions is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29. Qualifying continues at Noon and 5:05 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30 and concludes at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle eliminations are at 1:15 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30. U.S. Smokeless Showdown eliminations are at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 1.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. For ticket information, please call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) for ticket information, or check online at ticketmaster.com, nhra.com and oreillyracewaypark.com.
ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals beginning with a one-hour qualifying show on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 12:30 a.m. (ET). A two-hour and 30 minute qualifying show will be telecast by ESPN2HD at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 31, along with a two-hour qualifying show at 5 p.m. (ET). On Monday, Sept. 1, ESPN2 will telecast two shows, with two hours of early eliminations coverage at noon (ET) followed by a three-hour final eliminations show starting at 7 p.m. (ET). NHRA Race Day, ESPN2's popular pre-race show, will feature one show live from ORP during the event at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 31.