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Publication: National Dragster
Date published:
Language: English
PMID: 54249
ISSN: 04662199
Journal code: NDRG

My father and his wife, Sue, have been escaping to Southern Florida for a long time, but for me and my wife, Julie, it all started in 2002. One of our engine builders and friends Roy Simmons was getting married, and we put a plan in place to have the kids stay at home in Ohio so Julie and I could attend the wedding and then fly over to Paris, France, for a few days of adult relaxation.

I can't remember exactly what was happening in France at the time, but there was some sort trouble going on, so at the last minute, we decided to play it safe and stay stateside. Because we already had the kids taken care of, we didn't want to miss a chance to spend some time together, so we ended up going to Florida. At least we knew the weather would be good and could find a spot to lounge around outside and get a tan.

Well, we had such a good time down there that in that one visit we were hooked. I still think it's incredible that in just a few hours time you can go from 3 feet of snow in Ohio to a walk on a sandy beach with the warm sun on your back in Florida.

Please don't get me wrong, we love Ohio. It's home, and it will always be home. As far as work goes at JEGS headquarters, I'm as involved as I've ever been, and I firmly believe in the value of face-to-face meetings and being in-house to help keep that machine humming along. Fortunately, we have some great associates there, and that allows us to get away on the occasional weekend without stressing that the sky is falling back home.

Bottom line, we have found a great place to escape, and we've definitely fallen in love with our little vacation spot down in Florida. We currently have a place in Jupiter, about 60 miles or so north of Miami on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state. It's a location we really enjoy, and it sure makes a huge snowstorm in Ohio a lot more tolerable when you know you'll be dipping your toes in the warm ocean water that weekend. We recently spent Christmas, New Year's Eve, and Valentine's Day down there and enjoyed every minute.

Dad and Sue have their place nearby, so we often get together for meals or drinks by the pool. Having them around just adds so much to the homey feeling we have down there. Our two youngest daughters, Paige and Kelly, are involved with showing horses and riding in various competitions, and some of the best of them take place in Florida during the colder months, so being a semi-resident of the state helps in that endeavor as well.

As many drag racers know, there is a ton of testing that goes on in Florida during the offseason, so we were able to take advantage of that situation as well. My son, T.J., also tested a few times down there, so he also was able to use our place. We live on a golf course that was designed by fellow Ohioan Jack Nicklaus, and although I don't play, I do enjoy watching the golfers go by and even talk with the ones that come close to our yard. Most of the time I can be found by the pool, enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Of course, even as I try to relax, my mind always seems to drift to drag racing, and I seem to end up with a million ideas as I bake in the sun. What can we do to get better? How can we go faster? What do we need to do to win? You know, the usual stuff.

We hired Steve Petty as our crew chief over the off-season, and he's been great to work with. He's a real pro and one of the best in the business at running these turbo cars. After lots of testing in Florida, we went into the Gatornationals in Gainesville with high hopes. We ran pretty well in qualifying, posting a 5.946 at 256.26 mph, the fastest run of the weekend by far, but eliminations were another story.

We had tried some new tires in testing, and they worked great, but they didn't hook up so well in Gainesville, and although I had a big head start against Ray Commisso in the opening round of eliminations, we lost traction and had to give up the run to avoid crashing. The end result was a first-round loss, but at least our Camaro was in one piece.

We've decided to go back to what worked last year, and we've already tested once and posted a bunch of 5.90s at 250-plus mph. We want a car that zooms down the track every time because we know that will increase our odds of success. Steve said it's not just the tires that gave us fits - there were little tweaks that needed to be made in the suspension and shocks - but we think we've got everything worked out now, and we should be good to go at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte.

Just to be sure, we'll test again before the race, and hopefully, we'll do that down in Florida. I know of a couple of tracks near Jupiter.

Author affiliation:

Troy Coughlin is the driver of the Chevy Camaro Pro Mod entry.

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