If there’s one thing Jeggie Coughlin has learned in his legendary drag racing career… you should always have a plan. And the 67-time NHRA national event winner certainly had one ahead of archrival and final-round opponent Greg Anderson.

When two drivers raced against each other as much as Coughlin and Anderson did, and Sunday’s final-round match marked the 108th time they faced each other in eliminations, a different strategy was needed than the other 107 times.

Coughlin needed a plan because when the tree fell in the Pro Stock final round at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Anderson was out first with a reaction time of .001. Shortly after launch, Anderson depressed the clutch after shaking tires, ending what would be an exciting race.

Coughlin had played and replayed a scenario in his head over and over again before he even started the car. Apparently Anderson did too.

“Everyone wants to be on the attack at all times so you feel like you have the upper hand,” Coughlin said. “I had a few different scenarios that I thought could play out with running Greg. We did, I think, four time trials side by side, Friday and Saturday, and battled it out. We were 50/50 in those four runs, not that we count.

“I had a game plan where I was going to perform on top of him. We’re both prepared and we’re both loving the stage at about the same time. And my second plan was to go in and get ready and just focus on to feel comfortable, as I had done with him in previous runs. There are only a few ways to do this trick. And as I rolled forward, he staged in front of me, which doesn’t happen very often, and decided just do it, push the line lock button down. I didn’t have any brake pressure at that point. I just rolled it very gently into the front step light. Probably had a lot of brake pressure, just trying to see if I could shout a sound signal and catch him off guard.

Coughlin knew that Anderson had him behind by 0.06 to 0.07 seconds, and knowing his rival was in the more favorable right lane, he needed a break or two to win.

“There’s no secret about that,” Coughlin said. “That’s a country mile, not to use the pun here in Tennessee. We just wanted to try something different and I’m not sure if that played into it, but it felt good to see the victory light come on as we tiptoed to the other side We were on our toes today. The right lane was definitely the smoother preferred lane for the Pro Stock cars.

“The left lane still has some ripples, and ripples mean second, third and fourth gear where we really try to speed up the Pro Stock cars.”

Coughlin tiptoed to an elapsed time of 6.707 at 204.94 miles per hour for the win, while Anderson cruised to a 20.53.

Coughlin earned his way to the finals by beating teammates Jerry Tucker, cousin Troy Coughlin Jr. and to trample on defending champion Erica Enders. The win was his third in Bristol.

“Pro stocks today remind me of a lot of the late 1990s and early 2000s where the fields were separated by only a few hundredths of a second,” Coughlin said. “It definitely turns into crew chief and driver races, like any race, but because the field is so tight it takes a lot on the driver’s shoulders to drive well, get a good start and shift through the gears efficiently and not to make any mistakes. errors.”

Both Coughlin’s race day and his fellow competitors started their race day atmospherically differently than the previous two.

“We’re looking at the day, we’re looking at possible rain today,” Coughlin explained. “But we had a lot of cloud cover. The day started, we started an hour earlier. The track was tighter, the heat hadn’t had enough time to set in. There was no sun. So we were quite aggressive on lap one, and we came back on the second lap and went from running like .64, .65 to, I ran .69 second lap and I personally made a much better run from behind the wheel to get to the winning line next to Troy Jr.

“Fast forward another lap, I’m racing six times, double E, Erica there in the semis. And obviously her and Greg have been trading punches for the top two spots pretty much all year and just took a break there where they got in early in the tire shaking, and then fast forward to the finals, that final where Greg and I have been side by side in so many elimination rounds, the old classic Jegs versus Summits, and today the Skag versus Hendrick.

“To see them make a mistake and hit a hiccup after the great runs they put in was great. I put it in fourth gear and peeked over it a bit. It spun and shook and got into fifth gear and I looked at it again and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding, it’s coming like a freight train because back in the day the KB cars used to call it a drive-by shooter , and they called it a drive-by shooter. unfortunately it often happened to us, where they were just half a ton ahead of us at the back.”

Every lap was a story for Coughlin, but the final lap provided the best story.

“Greg has been a thorn in my side for decades; Erica has been a thorn in my side since I gave back to both in a good way,” Coughlin said. “That last lap, the victory light lifting the wall at the end of the track, that’s what we’re here for, and it felt great.”