If there's one thing Jeggie Coughlin has learned in his storied drag racing career... one must always have a plan. And, the 67-time NHRA national event winner certainly had one for archrival and final round opponent Greg Anderson. 

When two drivers race each other as much as Coughlin and Anderson, and Sunday's final round match marked the 108th time they had faced one another in eliminations, a strategy different than the other 107 times was necessary. 

Coughlin needed a plan for when the tree dropped in the Pro Stock final round at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Anderson was away first with a .001 reaction time. Shortly after the launch, Anderson pushed in the clutch after experiencing tire shake, ending what was going to be a close race. 

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

"Everyone wants to be on the offense at all times, so that you feel like you're at the upper hand period," Coughlin said. "I had a couple of different scenarios that I felt like how things could play out with running Greg. We'd made, I think, four time runs next to one another, Friday and Saturday, and duked it out. We were 50/50 in those four runs, not that we're counting.

"I had a game plan where I was planning on staging on top of him. We're both pre-staged and we both like the stage about the same time. And my second plan was to go in and get set and just be comfortable, as I had been in previous runs with him. There's only a couple ways of doing this trick. And then as I was rolling forward, he was pre-staged ahead of me, which doesn't happen that often, and just decided to push the line lock button down in. I didn't have any brake pressure at that point. I just rolled it very gently into both the pre-stage and just kept gently creeping into the stage bulb. Banged the brake pedal real quick. Probably had a ton of brake pressure. I was just trying to see if I could call an audible and catch him off guard."

Coughlin knew Anderson had him covered by .06 to .07 of a second, and knowing his rival was in the more favorable right lane, he was going to need 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 that, that played into it, but felt good to see the win light come on when we tiptoed to the other end. We were tiptoeing today. The right lane was definitely the smoother preferred lane for the Pro Stock cars. 

"The left lane still has some ripples in it, and ripples meaning the second, third, and fourth gear where we're really trying to accelerate the Pro Stock cars."

Coughlin tiptoed to a 6.707 elapsed time at 204.94 miles per hour for the win as Anderson coasted to a 20.53.

Coughlin earned his way to the final by running roughshod over teammates Jerry Tucker, nephew Troy Coughlin Jr., and defending series champion Erica Enders. The win marked his third at Bristol. 

"Pro stock in today's day and age, it reminds me of a lot of the late 1990s and early 2000s where fields are separated just by a couple hundredths of a second," Coughlin said. "Turns into crew chief and driver's races without question as every race is, but with the field's that tight, it does put a lot on the driver's shoulders to drive well, get a great start, and bang through the gears efficiently and not make any mistakes."



Coughlin's race day as well as his fellow competitors started their race day atmospherically different than it was in the previous two.

"We're looking at the day, we're looking at some potential 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 absorb into it. There was zero sun out. So we were pretty aggressive round one, and we came back round two and go from running like .64, .65 up to, I ran .69 -second round and I made a much better run personally from behind the wheel to turn the win line on next to Troy Jr.

"Fast-forward another round, I'm racing six-time, double E, Erica there in the semis. And obviously she and Greg, they're trading punches pretty much all year for the top two spots and just caught a break there where they went into this tire shake early, and then you fast-forward to the final, that final where Greg and I, we've been in so many elimination rounds side-by-side, the old classic Jegs versus Summits, and today the Skag versus Hendrick.

"To see them make a mistake and make a hiccup after the stellar runs they've laid down, it's been amazing. I put it in fourth gear and peeked over a little bit. It was spinning and shaking and got into fifth gear and I peeked over again, I'm like, 'You got to be kidding me. Surely, he's going to be coming on like a freight train because back in the day, the KB cars, they called it a drive-by shooter, and they did it often on us, unfortunately, were where they just outran us in the back half a ton."

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

"Greg has been a thorn in our side for decades; Erica has been a thorn in my side since I've returned both in a good way," Coughlin said. "That final round, the win light hoisting the wall at the end of the track, that's what we're here for, and that felt great."