BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 14) -- Even with a career record that most could only dream of, one that includes five world championships and 64 national event victories, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his star-studded crew from the Victor Cagnazzi Racing camp want more.
Their passion will soon be on display at Bristol Dragway when the Full Throttle tour arrives in eastern Tennessee for this weekend's 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
"We've made huge strides in the last two races," Coughlin said, "and I look for that to continue in Bristol. We've got the car running straight and strong and I can really sense a renewed fire in the belly of everyone on this team. These guys are hungry for more.
"If we continue to eliminate any and all mistakes, we're very capable of running at or near the front every round, which is always our primary goal. If we can stay in that elite group at the top we give ourselves so many more chances."
Third in the world rankings, Coughlin has two victories in three final-round showings this season. His JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt has led multiple qualifying and elimination sessions over the course of the first 11 races, and he's a previous winner at Bristol Dragway (2007), making him a legitimate contender for this year's trophy.
"It's a Bruton Smith track so you know it's going to be great," Coughlin said of the facility. "He does everything first class and he makes the racers and the fans feel welcome and special. He does it the way it should be done.
"Our family has had great success in Bristol over the years. It's a cool setting, Thunder Valley, and when they pack the stands there it offers a very unique view from the cockpit of the racecar. Just talking about it now gets me fired up."
Coughlin is close to clinching a spot in the Countdown to 1, which begins in six races. The NHRA's version of a playoff system, the Countdown to 1 takes the top 10 drivers from the regular season (the first 17 races), bunches them together in the points based on their finishing position, and turns them lose in a six-race shootout.
"They separate everyone by 10 points and the higher you finish the more points you get so it's important to maintain a strong push through these next two months," Coughlin said. "As we've seen in the past, every point matters a great deal. It's not something that's necessarily at the front of our minds but it will be nice to clinch a spot. It will allow us to focus our energy on putting this JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt in the winner's circle."
Pro Stock qualifying begins at 5 and 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday. ESPN2 will carry qualifying highlights in primetime on Saturday evening.