Pro Stock ace Jeg Coughlin displays in his home the Olympic torch he carried in 2002 preceding the Winter Games at Salt Lake City. (Photo courtesy of Team JEGS)

The distance, by coincidence, was a quarter-mile. Jeg Coughlin had traveled 1,320 feet many, many times, but this trip was different. He was on foot, carrying the Olympic torch through his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, as part of the relay preceding the Winter Games at Salt Lake City. In later years he competed against NASCAR stars in the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Challenge to raise critical funding for the U.S. Bobsled team. In 2010, he was a guest of Team USA at the Winter Games at Vancouver.

So with the kickoff of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, opening this same weekend as the Lucas Oil Winternationals at Pomona, Coughlin reminisced.

"Most kids grow up dreaming about the Olympics and feeling that incredible admiration for our athletes," he said. "I certainly feel that way to this day, so it's been a dream come true to get involved with our Olympic heroes in a small way. I can't wait for the Games to begin and cheer Team USA on to many medals.”

Coughlin has his share of hardware. He’s a 76-time NHRA national-event winner. But he has a special affection for the Olympics and its athletes.

"Carrying the torch -- for a quarter-mile, by chance -- through the streets of Columbus back in 2002 really got it going for me,” he said. “We then got involved with Geoff Bodine's charity fundraiser for a number of years and actually got to race bobsleds against our NASCAR counterparts to raise money to help in the design of better sleds for our athletes. Since then I've had the great honor of attending the Vancouver Olympics and watching our men and women do their thing up close, and we've also hosted many of our Olympians at the drag races. It's been a wonderful relationship."