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Jeggie Appears Set To Add To Stock Of Trophies

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 9 2013

Jeg Coughlin Jr. is in strong position to become a five-time Pro Stock champ. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Jeg Coughlin Jr. says it takes “an extreme amount of discipline” to successfully drive an NHRA Pro Stock car. And as the four Coughlin drag racing brothers continue to prove, a bit of genetic engineering doesn’t hurt.

“Sometimes we’re a product of our surroundings, right?” said Coughlin, poised to clinch his fifth Pro Stock world championship this weekend during the 49th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA finals. “In our case, my family and I have grown up around the high-performance world at Jegs (Mail Order Warehouse) – seeing the Edelbrock parts, the Mr. Gasket parts, the Moroso parts coming and going since we were in diapers – and also being at the local tracks around the Midwest watching our father and the Jegs Race Team.

“I think there are some things that are certainly in the blood, there’s no question. There’s aspects that you pick up in our case being around the industry, the racetrack our entire lives that have helped us appreciate what it takes to compete in this sport and to do well.”

The youngest of four brothers , Jeggie, 43, owns a comfortable 72-point (2,515-2,443)/three-plus rounds lead over championship runnerup Jason Line after two of four rounds of qualifications in Pomona, Calif. Mike Edwards, the 2009 world champion, is the provisional pole-sitter after a quarter-mile pass of 6.545- seconds at 211.66 mph in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Coughlin is second at 6.552-seconds at 210.77 mph in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger. Line, a two-time world champion, sits third in his Summit Racing Camaro at 6.554-seconds/210.93 mph.

“I think we’ve got a great car,” Coughlin said, “but it’s all about keeping everything together, continuing to make good calls in the pits and then getting out there and driving sensibly. I like the way I feel behind the wheel. We have a lot of good momentum going and after two runs, moving up a spot certainly didn’t hurt

Pro Stock is a family business for Jeg Coughlin Jr. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

us a bit. I’m looking forward to Q3 (Saturday’s third qualifying round) as it’ll likely be our fastest session of the four. The air will be better, the track will be tighter, and we’ll be a little more aggressive with it, so elapsed times should fall. We’ll look to improve.”

And with that, eventually add to the family’s crowded trophy case. Jegs Racing recently celebrated its milestone 100th NHRA national event victory, complete with the Wally trophy that goes with it. Jeg has contributed 56 Pro Stock victories to the Columbus, Ohio-based family’s hot rod legacy.

“When brother Troy lit the win light up in the final round in Las Vegas in the Pro Modified category, that tripped our 100-event win,” said Jeg, referring to race day at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 27. “To be honest with you, I was lost in the moment. I had just gotten put aside in the Pro Stock world by V. Gaines in the semifinals; honestly, was just cheering Troy onto the victory. As Alan Reinhart and the PA announcers were talking about that being our 100th victory, it was a very kind reminder of a lot of memories that started flashing through my mind…starting with our first win at the Budweiser Spring Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, in 1990. It means a lot to our family, to all our associates that have worked with us at the race team and at Jegs. We have been one big family and enjoyed that together.”

World champion in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2008, Coughlin has four wins, four runnerup finishes and two poles through five of six events in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship playoffs. After sitting out the 2011 season, Jeg returned to the Pro Stock wars in 2012 and went winless with only one final-round appearance – at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona en route to a ninth-place final point finish.

Coughlin’s return to the top undeniably has been accelerated by teaming-up with reigning Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson, with father/engine-builder Roy as tuner of his Hemi powerplants.

“This season has been unique in a way, partnering and teaming-up with Roy and Allen Johnson at J&J Racing,” said Coughlin, whose titles in 2007-08 were scored under the Countdown format. “We had just one heck of a season between the three of us – Vincent Nobile, myself and Allen have won a lot of races (11 wins/six poles), have won a lot of rounds. At this point we’re in a position to bring home a championship. That would be extremely special not only for our family but the Johnson family and also for everyone at Mopar and Dodge. It’s been a big season.”

Coughlin’s partnership with the ever-intense Johnson not only has paid dividends on the track but also produced some lighter moments as well. “Going into the final elimination against Allen at Gainesville (Fla.), I had to pick my heart up off the ground after I lost a motor in the semifinals,” Coughlin said. “AJ looked at me seriously and said we were all out of engines. All I could say was (expletive!) Obviously, he was just kidding, but he really got me. That moment really stands out and set a positive and fun tone for the rest of the year.”

Coughlin won the Countdown opener at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on Sept. 15 and took over the point lead with a victory during Round 4 at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., on Oct. 6.

“I think you definitely take a peek at the points. It’s hard not to, with the media, with the technology we have today,” said Coughlin, who is working with co-crew chiefs Jim Yates, a two-time world champion, and Mark Ingersol. “We keep pretty close tabs on where we need to be, where others are at, let me just put it that way. ‘How do you handle the pressures of it?’ That’s what we love. That’s what makes us thrive to dig down and compete at the highest level.”

Coughlin admittedly dotes on the five-decades of history connected with Pomona Raceway, where he has scored six wins in 13 career final-round appearances including a runnerup finish at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals this year. Three of Jeg’s six Pomona wins have come during the Auto Club NHRA Finals, including his last two in 2007 and 2005.

“Pomona, it’s an electrical and magical place. I really can’t think of a better place to finish the season,” Coughlin said. “Again, growing up in the sport, typically the finale has always been in Pomona. In my lifetime it has been. That’s just been kind of chapter-and-verse. I think as far as the race course itself, the facilities, being just miles from one of the meccas of the world, L.A., it brings in a whole new group of fans from all over the world that come in and watch this race. I mentioned also earlier the energies that feed off of that. I think that makes the teams want to perform that much better.

“Certainly in my case I’ve had a great run in the last 25-plus years of drag racing of some sort. Since 1998, being more or less fulltime in the Pro Stock world, I’ve really enjoyed the challenges of driving a Pro Stock car. It does take some discipline, focus, a whole heck of a lot of horsepower, too. If I had to pick one word, I would say it takes an extreme amount of discipline.”

Shawn Langdon is the provisional pole-sitter in Top Fuel after two rounds of time trials and closing in on his first world championship with Al-Anabi Racing. Funny Car icon John Force, who clinched his record 16th championship in Vegas, leads that class while Hector Arana Jr. tops the provisional field in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

ESPN2 and ESPNHD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage Sunday at 2:30 a.m. (EST). The networks also will televise one hour of qualifying starting at 2 p.m. Sunday, with three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 9 2013
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