Drag racer Jeg Coughlin Jr. has won five NHRA titles and a whopping 68 national events due in large part to his meticulous preparation. Aside from the expert crews he’s always had on his JEGS.com race teams, his legendary attention to detail in the cockpit has made him one of the most feared and successful drivers in the 61-year history of the sport.
For this reason alone, the unique format of the upcoming third annual VisitMyrtleBeach.com NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway has him working overtime.
“I’ve been racing for more than two decades and 99.99-percent of the time I’ve been dealing with one opponent at a time,” the 41-year-old Coughlin said. “That all goes out the window with the 4-Wide Nationals. I’ve only done this format once before because I didn’t race Pro Stock last year so it’s really going to be a test for me. I’m very excited about the challenge.”
The lone racetrack on the NHRA tour with four lanes, zMax Dragway allows for an unusual style of racing where four cars simultaneously race one another. The major obstacle for the contestants is the staging process as they must deal with three other drivers putting their racecars in the beams for a fair start.
“You’ve certainly got a lot more to think about up there,” Coughlin said. “We’ve seen quite a few times in the past when a racer would get counted out for not staging in time. You have to be so focused on the moment and what you need to do. After the launch, it’s pretty much like any other race; you’re doing everything you can to make a perfect run. It’s that start that will make you or break you.
“It’s impossible to practice the staging deal with four cars so I’ve spent a lot of time mentally going through all the various scenarios that could play out. That’s really all you can do.”
Playing to his advantage, Coughlin has frequently tested at the Bruton Smith-owned facility as his engine shop — JNR Racing Engines — is located in nearby Mooresville. He’s also racing his JEGS.com Drag Pak Dodge Challenger in the Stock Eliminator class at this event so he’ll get twice as many looks at the Christmas Tree as his Pro Stock counterparts.
“I’m as excited to race the Challenger as I am my Avenger in Pro Stock,” Coughlin said. “We figured out a lot of things with the Challenger over the winter and I went four rounds with it in Gainesville last month so I have some confidence there. Plus, I just won Las Vegas in a Super Comp dragster so I’ve got some good mojo going.
“It keeps you extra sharp when you run two cars and I’m convinced it’s helped me be better in the Pro Stock car. The competiveness of Lucas Oil Sportsman Racing and having extra looks at Tree at this race certainly won’t hurt.”
Coughlin will be joined in the JEGS pit by his wife Samantha, who will be racing in Super Comp, and his brother Troy, who runs a Pro Mod car. Samantha’s father Al Kenny and brother Jason Kenny are also entered in the event.
Pro Stock qualifying begins with sessions at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Friday and continue with two more rounds at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Pro Stock eliminations fire off at 12:45 p.m. Sunday. ESPN2 will broadcast qualifying highlights from 5-7:30 p.m. Saturday with elimination action airing from 7-10 p.m. Sunday.