A not so rookie driver and a true rookie will fire their engines Friday morning for Top Alcohol Dragster qualifying at the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., the second national event on the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for the top of the sportsman food chain.

Troy Coughlin Jr. and Jordan Vandergriff will make their competition debut at the first major East Coast event for the NHRA. 

Coughlin, who last year tried his hand at Top Fuel driving, will be behind the wheel of Rich McPhillips Racing injected nitro dragster. 
"I'm extremely excited to race Top Alcohol Dragster with this team," Coughlin said. "My Pappy (grandfather Jeg Coughlin Sr.) raced this class back in the day and it's an honor to follow in his footsteps, especially making my debut on his birthday weekend."

Coughlin, son of three-time Pro Mod champion Troy Coughlin, Troy Jr. also has experience in Junior Dragster, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster, and Pro Mod.
"I'm really wanting to let this car do the talking for us this year, and I think it has a lot to say. This entire team, Mr. McPhillips and his son Rich Jr., Duke Roney, Andy Good, TJ Rebert and Charlie Wrotten, they're all about winning. They are a true racing family that is truly capable of running for the national championship."


A true novice in national competition, Vandergriff knows a thing or two about growing up in a drag racing family. 

Vandergriff, 23, is the nephew of past NHRA national event winner and current Top Fuel team owner Bob Vandergriff Jr., and stands prepared to carry on the family tradition into a new generation this weekend behind the wheel of Anthony DiCero's Nitro University A/Fuel dragster.

“I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to make my debut at the Gator Nationals,” Vandergriff said. “It is a dream come true and an honor to compete against the best Top Alcohol drivers in the world.”

Vandergriff is the first in the newly-created Bob Vandergriff Racing driver development program.

As for Coughlin, he hopes to fare well in a weekend which will be special to the Coughlin family.  

"It's a big weekend for us. It's Pappy's birthday, my Uncles Jeg and Mike are racing here, and my Dad is being presented with his championship jacket and ring during Sunday's prerace ceremony. I'm just in awe of my dad and it's gonna be a special moment to see him close out his career on that stage. Maybe we'll end up on that same stage at the end of the race."
Top Alcohol Dragster qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Friday, and 10:15 a.m., Saturday. Eliminations begin at 5 p.m., Saturday.