T.J. Coughlin Dreaming Big As He Heads To Gatornationals
GAINESVILLE, March 9: JEGS Super Comp dragster driver Troy Coughlin Jr.'s goal of contending for the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series national championship in 2011 begins this weekend at the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway.
Beginning the day after his famous grandfather Jeg Coughlin Sr. gets inducted into Don Garlits' International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the significance and prestige of competing at one of drag racing's "majors" is not lost on the 20-year-old Coughlin, who is known as T.J. to his friends and family.
"If you're a drag racer than the Gatornationals definitely gets your heart pumping," T.J. said. "I remember my dad (Troy Coughlin) racing to the final round there when I was 9 years old and I was listening at home. He had Warren Johnson in the final and W.J. beat him that day and I was so upset I threw my shoe at the T.V. My mom just about killed me.
"It's just such a big race. All the legends of this sport have won the Gators and I wanted Dad to be on that list of winners. Now here we are a decade later and I'm racing there. The feelings I have about winning the race haven't changed one bit."
This race will mark the first national event that will count towards the official standings so T.J. is hoping a solid outing with multiple rounds won on race day will propel him off to the fast start he'll need to run with the top drivers in the country.
"If we're gonna count points you need to start adding them up now," said T.J., the son of Pro Mod racer Troy Coughlin, who will also be racing this weekend in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. "I have a great car and if I do my job right it can be a big weekend."
T.J. already has two national event wins to his credit, including last year's U.S. Nationals crown.
"I've spent a lot of time this off-season with my uncle Jeg and he's taught me some things that I'll bring into the cockpit with me in Gainesville," T.J. said. "He's one of the best racers in the history of the sport so I take everything he says very seriously.
"I'm also going to loosen up a bit and try to have as much fun as I can this year. It's not life or death out there and I need to remember to enjoy the ride. I do love drag racing and in the past I've been so competitive that I'll let things get me down, so that's something I want to change this year, win or lose. Either way, I'll be ready to race this weekend and I can't wait to get started."