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Coughlin Brakes His Way To Baytown Lead

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 27 2013

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Jeg Coughlin Jr. earned the provisional Pro Stock pole for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway during a run in which feathering the brakes proved every bit as pivotal as standing on the gas.

Coughlin’s second quarter-mile pass of 6.569-seconds at 211.20 mph initially was flawless, capping the first two of four rounds of qualifications for the 26th annual event in Baytown, Texas. It was after the clock stopped that the four-time world champion put his skill set to work, as Coughlin’s parachutes deployed but failed to “blossom.” Coughlin got on the binders and successfully brought his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to a halt, rolling to a stop with the front wheels touching the sand trap area at the end of the track.

“You’ve got to be ready for anything,” said Coughlin, who was racing opposite Vincent Nobile. “And to be quite honest with you, I wasn’t ready for that. Our parachutes always work and work well. We made a fantastic run, but my attention was quickly called away by just trying to get stopped. Fortunately, it’s a long shutdown area here, but it’s a ‘seasoned’ shutdown area.”

Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also led their respective categories at the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near Houston.

Coughlin said the trick was to slow down but not so quickly that it risked flipping the car, potentially doing real damage not only to his Avenger but also to Nobile’s Mountain View Tire Dodge. “It was wanting to lock-up on me a little bit,” Coughlin said of his yellow Avenger. “I didn’t want it to slide too much. As it got slower I could let it skid a little more than you would at higher speed. The last thing you want to do is tangle a couple of these things (chutes).

“There really wasn’t any damage to the car. We’ll change the front tires because they did skid a little bit. They appear to be fine, but it’s cheap insurance to put new front tires on. We’ll take a good look at the suspension, too, because it was bouncing around pretty hard.”

Coughlin started the day by running 6.604-seconds at 210.57 mph. Coughlin – world champion in 2000, 2002, 2007-08) – has 17 career Pro Stock poles but none since the 2010 season. Engine-builder Roy Johnson, father of reigning world champion Allen Johnson, could help Coughlin update that stat this weekend. Qualifying will continue with sessions at noon and 2:15 p.m. for the season’s sixth of 24 events.

“It’s our first time at the top with the JEGS/Mopar Dodge Avenger with J&J horsepower,” Coughlin said of his Hemi-powered hot rod. “Roy was pleased with the performance of the car and the crew chiefs (Mark Ingersoll and Jim Yates) were very happy. Temperatures might be a little warmer (Saturday), which will be in our favor, but we’ll still have to peck away at it if we want to stay No. 1.”

Nobile – the two-time/reigning winner at Royal Purple Raceway – will be looking to improve upon his No. 11 standing in what will be a 16-car field.

“I have a hard-working team who doesn’t give up and we’re hoping to get back on track this weekend,” said Nobile, whose best lap was 6.614-seconds at 209.98 mph. “We’ve never qualified in the top-three here but for whatever reason Royal Purple Raceway treats my team well.” Nobile, who posted his first career victory at RPR in 2011, won the 2013 season-opening Winternationals and sits fifth in points.

Pedregon, meanwhile, continued his strong start to the season by powering to the qualifying lead in Funny Car. A two-time world champion, Pedregon has logged one win along with one pole this season and is second in points. He raced to the top of the order Friday in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry with a 1,000-foot pass of 4.086-seconds at 310.41 mph.

“This run was really good for us because we broke a couple of (connecting) rods (on a 4.70-second/176.76 mph pass) in the first session,” said Pedregon, who has logged eight poles at RPR. “It was a flawless pass that really set me back in the seat right at the hit of the throttle. It really pulled hard all the way through, and I knew it was a good pass. But we weren’t trying to knock it out of the park; our goal was just to keep all eight cylinders lit all the way to the finish line. I honestly would have been happy with a 4.12 or a 4.13. So we were really thrilled with the 4.08.

“Houston has always been a fast track. But our cars are making a lot more power than they used to, and we’re also getting used to some new parts and new tune-up ideas that we’re trying. And as good as the 4.08 run was, I think that if we have a cloud cover (Saturday), some of the other drivers like Johnny Gray (of Don Schumacher Racing) or Courtney (Force) (of John Force Racing) could pop a 4.07. So we have our work cut out for us.”

Kalitta took his Mac Tools dragster to the qualifying lead during a wild second Top Fuel session which saw the provisional pole change seven times. Racing in the final pair, Kalitta covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.791-seconds at 321.65 mph to take the lead into Saturday’s third session.

“The conditions were right and we made a good run and had the quick time of the day,” Kalitta said. “I actually think Jim O. (Oberhofer, crew chief) was trying to run a 3.77 but we settled for a 3.79. I’m happy and I’m really proud of my guys.”

Kalitta has recorded two No. 1 qualifying positions this season but has yet to capitalize for a win. He has one career victory at Royal Purple Raceway and is aiming to add another to his 32 career total.

“I think the chances are good that it (his time) will stay,” Kalitta said. “It should warm up (Saturday) and I think mid-3.8s will be good, but you never know with these guys. The competition in this class is so good. We’ve been doing well lately, but we really need to turn that into a win on Sunday.”

Arana Jr. backed-up his strong start to the season by racing to the top of Pro Stock Motorcycle aboard his Lucas Oil Buell. Hector Jr. has won the season’s first two events, and if his 6.876-second quarter-mile pass at 195.39 mph stays No. 1 it would be the 12th pole of his career and first at Royal Purple Raceway.

“When you’re doing so well, you have that extra confidence – you have that momentum,” Arana Jr. said. “It’s like a big wave and I’m just trying to stay on top of that wave and ride it as long as I can.”

Arana Jr. won the Pro Stock Bike season-opening event in Gainesville, Fla., and then reached Victory Lane again at the Four-Wide Nationals in Concord, N.C., last weekend. He’s the first rider since Angelle Sampey in 2006 to win the opening two races of the season.

Arana Jr. is poised to join Matt Hines and Dave Schultz as the only riders to win the first three events of a season. Hines was the last rider to do so, advancing to Victory Lane in Gainesville, Commerce, Ga., and Richmond, Va., in 1998. Schultz won the first four races of the 1991 season.

Arana Jr.’s second-round pass was a tick slower (6.886-seconds at 195.11 mph), but he still earned three bonus points for being the quickest rider in the session. “We’re staying consistent,” Arana Jr. said. “This bike has been consistent from the beginning of the year.”

RPR is the venue where Hector Jr. qualified for his first PSM event in 2011 _ and where he beat father/2009 world champion Hector Sr. in the first round. Last season, Arana Jr. set the track’s elapsed-time record (6.846-seconds) and advanced to the final. Adam Arana, Hector’s younger brother and a PSM rookie, was fifth after two rounds with a pass of 6.919-seconds at 194.24 mph. Hector Sr. is sixth at 6.926-seconds at 193.07 mph.

Professional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds Friday for the 26th annual O’Reilly NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway:

Top Fuel _ 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.791 seconds, 321.65 mph; 2. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.794, 325.22; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.794, 323.19; 4. Antron Brown, 3.816, 314.83; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.819, 322.04; 6. David Grubnic, 3.823, 318.69; 7. Spencer Massey, 3.826, 316.90; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.833, 317.42; 9. Morgan Lucas, 3.841, 311.41; 10. Brandon Bernstein, 3.866, 318.77; 11. Terry McMillen, 3.874, 326.71; 12. T.J. Zizzo, 3.884, 316.30.

Not Qualified _ 13. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.893, 313.95; 14. Tony Schumacher, 3.906, 316.30; 15. J.R. Todd, 3.965, 298.54; 16. Troy Buff, 4.060, 258.32; 17. Clay Millican, 4.234, 201.52; 18. Brittany Force, 4.358, 188.70; 19. Scott Palmer, 4.437, 188.12.

Funny Car _ 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.086, 310.41; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.103, 307.58; 3. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.117, 309.56; 4. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.117, 304.39; 5. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.123, 304.46; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.127, 309.13; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.151, 305.42; 8. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.154, 307.72; 9. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.189, 298.80; 10. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.189, 296.83; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.201, 293.79; 12. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.217, 297.55.

Not Qualified _ 13. Tony Pedregon, 4.322, 252.47; 14. Johnny Gray, 4.544, 227.65; 15. Del Worsham, 4.768, 226.05; 16. Terry Haddock, 5.280, 146.15; 17. Todd Simpson, 6.166, 108.62; 18. Jon Capps, 15.549, 32.32.

Pro Stock _ 1. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dodge Avenger, 6.569, 211.20; 2. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.570, 211.59; 3. Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.572, 212.09; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.572, 212.03; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.574, 210.80; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.579, 211.16; 7. Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.580, 211.49; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.600, 210.41; 9. Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.602, 211.46; 10. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.602, 210.87; 11. Vincent Nobile, Avenger, 6.614, 209.98; 12. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.620, 209.17.

Not Qualified _ 13. Larry Morgan, 6.621, 210.28; 14. Chris McGaha, 6.627, 209.92; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.641, 210.01; 16. Steve Kent, 6.648, 209.49.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.876, 195.39; 2. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.911, 193.24; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.911, 191.65; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.913, 193.60; 5. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.919, 194.24; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.926, 193.24; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.929, 194.30; 8. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.934, 193.71; 9. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.936, 192.41; 10. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.938, 194.16; 11. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.947, 191.21; 12. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.952, 191.27.

Not Qualified _ 13. John Hall, 6.964, 189.95; 14. Mike Berry, 6.976, 191.13; 15. Andrew Hines, 6.992, 192.06; 16. Shawn Gann, 6.994, 191.97; 17. Angie Smith, 7.051, 188.41; 18. Redell Harris, 7.096, 186.00; 19. Michael Phillips, 7.115, 189.60; 20. James Surber, 7.132, 187.08; 21. Freddie Camarena, 7.151, 187.96; 22. David Barron, 7.159, 183.54; 23. Joe DeSantis, 7.654, 136.18.

Mike Castellana powered his Al-Anabi Racing ’68 Camaro to the No. 1 qualifying position in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals Friday at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. His pass of 5.880-seconds at 244.56 mph paced the 16-car field in the 250-mph doorslammer touring series.

Danny Rowe currently is second at 5.930-seconds at 246.53 mph in his Agave Underground Tequila Pro Mod. Mike Janis raced his K100 Fuel Treatment Camaro to the third position at 5.960-seconds at 244.25 mph, while point-leader Von Smith qualified his Camaro eighth at 5.979-seconds at 248.71 mph.

Final qualifying for Pro Mod is set for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. with the first round of eliminations at 4. Eliminations will continue Sunday at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Pro Modified qualifying results after the first two of three rounds Friday at the 26th annual O’Reilly NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway, third of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series:

Pro Modified _ 1. Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.880, 244.56; 2. Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.930, 246.53; 3. Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.960, 244.25; 4. Mike Knowles, Camaro, 5.964, 244.34; 5. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.964, 242.71; 6. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.966, 246.12; 7. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.979, 248.71; 8. Von Smith, Camaro, 5.979, 244.65; 9. Kenny Lang, Corvette, 5.983, 245.99; 10. Steve Matusek, Ford Mustang, 6.060, 246.48; 11. Clint Satterfield, Camaro, 6.208, 237.30; 12. Chris Juliano, Mustang, 6.246, 220.15; 13. Chip King, Daytona, 6.499, 236.55; 14. Jeffrey Cummins Jr., Camaro, 9.786, 93.08.

Live wall-to-wall coverage will highlight ESPN2’s broadcasts of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries from Baytown, Texas.

ESPN2’s exclusive weekend coverage from Royal Purple Raceway will begin with a live show Saturday from 3-5 p.m. (EDT), showcasing the final round of qualifying. On Sunday, ESPN2’s race day telecast will begin at 2 p.m. (EDT). Highlighting the three-hour telecast will be live coverage of both semifinal and final rounds of Top Fuel, Funny Car Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

ESPN2’s crews will closely follow the teams from the time they exit the racetrack at the top end to their respective pit areas. From there, cameras will roll into the pits as the teams service the world’s fastest and most powerful race vehicles during the scheduled 55 minutes, ultimately returning to the starting line for the final round.

Telecasts also will include extended coverage in the four professional pits between the semi and final rounds, interviews with drivers and crew chiefs, multiple images on the screen following what action is happening where in each of the pits and on the track.

These telecasts represent one of the first times during the 13-year exclusive relationship between NHRA and ESPN that a commitment has been made to provide live coverage for both Saturday qualifying and Sunday’s elimination rounds. It’s a step that NHRA _ the world’s largest motorsports sanctioning body _ hopes will lead to more future live telecasts of national events.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 27 2013
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