DELAWARE, Ohio – Six-time drag racing world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. will always pick the familiar confines of his JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro as his preferred mode of go-fast transportation.
But for three years, from 2008-2010, Coughlin enjoyed the unique experience of hitting breakneck speeds driving an Olympic bobsled as part of the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge.
“As I think back on those three events, that was actually pretty crazy,” said Coughlin, who will pullback from full-time racing at the end of the year. “At the time, the competitor in you comes out and the way they set it up was NASCAR versus NHRA so we just kind of dove into the fight. It probably was a bit insane but it was also a lot of fun.
“You’re in these things with no roll cage, no safety belts and no brakes really, except for one the brakeman uses after the run is over. It’s all about gravity and once they release you in that tube, you’re fully committed. The sled and its occupants are going to the bottom of the mountain. How you get there is up to you. If you crash and turn it over, you’re still going all the way down, just on your head, and that happened.”
Coughlin got involved in the charity event after hearing the story of former NASCAR driver Geoff Bodine, who had learned of the struggles of the United States bobsled team in the 1990s. Bodine discovered the American athletes were far behind countries like Germany and Russia because they were using old, second- and third-hand bobsleds from their European counterparts.
Thinking the technology in the USA was equal to or even superior to most other countries, Bodine put a group together and started building bobsleds at his racecar shop. Almost immediately, the fortunes of the Americans soared and by 2002, the team collected its first Olympic medals since 1956. The Bo-Dyn Project took off from there.
“Geoff put quite the effort together to help our athletes and it was great to see the success they had attained after his involvement,” said Coughlin, who was a torchbearer for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. “Both the men’s and the women’s teams jumped way up in the world rankings. Of course, funding was critical and they put together the Challenge both to raise money and awareness for our U.S. athletes.
“When Woody (Scott Woodruff, director of media and motorsports at JEGS) asked if I wanted to race as part of the NHRA team going up against the NASCAR guys, I jumped at the chance. I figured not too many civilians would ever have the chance to pilot a bobsled with our Olympic athletes serving as coaches. I knew nothing about bobsleds other than watching on TV but we decided to go for it.”
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