NORWALK, Ohio (June 22) -- Five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. enters the biggest race of the year with a clear purpose -- defend the title of Saturday's invitation-only K&N Horsepower Challenge and win Sunday's national event to pull off a career double that would go down in the annuls of Coughlin family history.
"Racing in Norwalk is the second best thing to racing at our hometown track in Columbus," Coughlin said. "We've got all the surrounding states filled with longtime supporters of our racing program that always come out to Norwalk in full force. For years the JEGS business has been extremely strong in all the neighboring states to Ohio -- Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. No question we've got tons and tons of fans around these parts.
"Aside from the business aspect and the 350 JEGS associates and their families, we can add in all of our family members and friends that are coming up. It becomes a huge weekend for us and it's something we're really looking forward to."
A solid third in the championship points, Coughlin has two wins in three final-round appearances this season. His JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt carried him to the top qualifying position in Charlotte and he's had numerous qualifying and elimination rounds where he's logged the quickest elapsed time and/or top speed.
Coughlin knows he'll have to be up to speed right out of the trailer as the elimination rounds of the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge begin Saturday. The special race-within-a-race invites the top seven qualifiers from the last 12 months plus one wildcard entry selected by a fan vote. A three-time winner of the event (1999, 2000, and 2009), Coughlin earned the No. 5 starting slot this year.
"As soon as you enter the gate it's game time," Coughlin said. "That's how we look at it. The K&N Horsepower Challenge forces you into race mode on Friday. It's actually nice to have a little poke in the tail like that because sometimes we get a little lazy in qualifying when we tend to be a little extra cautious trying to get the car down the track every time. You can't do that here.
"We're going to race hard all weekend. Our eyes are on that $50,000 bonus and going for our fourth K&N Challenge title. Then we're going to keep it rolling right into the regular race and see if we can't do some damage there as well."