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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Five-time world champion drag racer Jeg Coughlin Jr. enters this weekend’s 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals with two chances at winning a coveted Wally trophy from one of the crown jewels on the NHRA schedule.

Coughlin, a 67-time national event winner, will be racing in two different categories at the Central Florida speedplant. He’ll be trying for his third Pro Stock Gatornationals victory in his new JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger, while also aiming for the winner’s circle in his Mopar Challenger Drag Pak Stock entry.

“I love the Gatornationals,” Coughlin said. “And this year I love it twice as much because we have two cars to race. It should be a lot of fun.

“It’s the first big event on the East Coast so it’s our first time this season to see all of the East Coast fans and compete against all the East Coast racers.”

After taking a year off from racing in the professional ranks, Coughlin returned to Pro Stock with a vengeance last month, reaching the final-round of the season-opening Winternationals in California. Combined with a narrow Round 1 defeat in Phoenix a week later, Coughlin enters the Gators ranked fifth in the world.

“We’re not where we want to be performance-wise,” he admitted. “Jeg Coughlin, Sr (advisor), Tomi (Laine, crew chief) and the guys are working hard on car management and Roy (Simmons) and Nick (Ferri, engine builders) are relentlessly pursuing more horsepower. That’s what it takes to be successful in Pro Stock.

“We’re very excited about bringing our third HEMI motor online at this race. Roy and Nick believe they’ve taken some big steps in the right direction with this motor and I’m excited to step on the gas and see how it performs. We’re still massaging things but overall we’re happy with where we are at this point.

“You look at (frontrunners Greg Anderson and Jason Line) and obviously they are at the top of their game. They’re providing a good measuring stick for the rest of us. There are probably three or four other teams that should be up there too so there’s a lot of things that still need to be figured out. It’s an exciting time.”

In Stock, Coughlin will be driving the same racecar family friend Jeff Taylor recently guided to the Gainesville Raceway winner’s circle during the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event held in February.

“We made a lot of changes to the Drag Pak car over the winter and it’s really improved the performance, as Jeff showed last month,” Coughlin said. “I raced it last weekend in Georgia and qualified No. 2 and won a few rounds before we had to leave to go test the Pro Stock car so I’m feeling very confident in that HEMI-powered beast at the moment.

“My wife Samantha also is racing in Gainesville in her Super Comp dragster so we’ll have plenty of stuff going on. It’s a big weekend for all of us.”

Qualifying rounds will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday with eliminations slated to begin at noon Sunday. ESPN2 will show qualifying highlights from 5-6 p.m. Sunday with eliminations airing from 6-9 p.m. Sunday.

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