Jeg Coughlin Jr. Columbus Preview

COUGHLIN LOOKS FOR MORE SUCCESS AT HOMETOWN TRACK KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Race car drivers are no different than athletes in other professional sports. When the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd comes around, they're usually...

COUGHLIN LOOKS FOR MORE SUCCESS AT HOMETOWN TRACK

KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Race car drivers are no different than athletes in other professional sports. When the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd comes around, they're usually at their very best.

In tight games, winning or losing can be decided by the collective roar of a supportive grandstand.

In NHRA drag racing, competition in the Pro Stock eliminator is about as close as it can get. On any given Sunday, any driver in the 16-car field can steal a victory.

It's so close that drivers will use any advantage they can get.

That's why young Jeg Coughlin Jr. has a broad smile on his face heading into the 34th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 11-14 at National Trail Raceway. The $1.6 million race is the 10th of 22 events in the $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Coughlin, 27, a lifelong resident of Columbus, will be relying heavily on the loud cheers from the grandstand to give him a boost in the tough Pro Stock wars.

"Getting ready for a race in our backyard makes us more confident without a doubt, especially running as strong as we have during these last few races," Coughlin said. "Certainly going into our hometown race we approach that with a bit more confidence and I look forward to it."

Coughlin is still soaring from the momentum gained by winning the Mopar Parts Nationals at Englishtown, N.J. one month ago. The Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass driver is third in the Winston championship standings, with one victory, a runner-up finish and three semifinal appearances.

Clearly, it's been a darn good year. He hopes it gets better at Columbus.

"We've got a great team and I'm fortunate to be driving the car," Coughlin explained. "As far as my expectations go, I would have liked to have won a couple more races this season where we've been within striking distance. I think we're moving right along and we've got goals set for 1998. We still have a lot of races left to meet those goals."

An extremely successful NHRA Federal-Mogul sportsman racer in the past, Coughlin earned an emotional first national event win at National Trail, taking the 1990 Super Gas title in front of many friends and family. In 1996 he earned a Super Stock win at the track. Last year his teammate and brother, Troy, was the Pro Stock runner-up.

"As a team we've definitely made a lot of runs at National Trail in all various levels of racing," Coughlin said. "Mentally we feel like we know the track real well and know how to adapt to the air conditions and altitude. That will help a bunch and hopefully we can hit the number right off the first run."

* Tricky track: While many NHRA pro category drivers say National Trail can be one of the trickiest tracks on the circuit, Coughlin says that's true only if temperatures soar into the 90's.

"All of the NHRA tracks are prepared pretty consistent, so typically moving from track to track isn't a problem," he said. "During this time of year the heat at National Trail can be a factor. That's really the only difference we keep in mind. We had quite a bit of heat at Route 66 Raceway (Joliet, Ill.) and learned some things about our summer setup there. We should be pretty well prepared for what's ahead."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin