No driver is on more of a hot streak than Jeg Coughlin Jr. heading into this weekend’s NHRA Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
The five-time and defending Pro Stock champion is on another big run with three consecutive final-round appearances. He has two wins already this season, and along with teammate Allen Johnson, they have accounted for wins in over half the nine races this season.
Coughlin believes the Greeneville-based J&J Racing team has figured out its new Dodge Dart race car and that’s definitely bad news for the rest of the field
“We’ve had the new Dodge Dart since Gainesville, and we had an extremely impressive debut there running over 214 miles per hour and then Allen going on for his first victory,” Coughlin said. “When that car came out, obviously it was brand new to us. We had maybe 20 runs collectively going into the event on the new chassis, on the new aerodynamic package.
“Crew chiefs Mark Ingersoll and Adam Hornberger have had to find their way through the car. We have seen a lot of different conditions that we’ve raced on. But I think the big turn now is just having a bit more time on our side, and the team has been very disciplined, very focused on achieving that, and not to mention, everyone back at J&J, led by Roy Johnson, have been fine tuning the Hemi power plants that appear to be running right up front just about everywhere we go.”
Coughlin is tied with his teammate for second in the Mello Yello championship standings, and they trail the consistent Erica Enders-Stevens by just 123 points heading into this weekend.
Still, Coughlin insists that Pro Stock remains the most competitive division in all of motorsports. He believes the winner of the Bristol race could come anywhere from the No. 1 to the No. 16 seed on the elimination bracket.
“Pro Stock right now is the most competitive that I’ve seen it since I joined the ranks in late 1997, and in competitive meaning there’s a good chance that just about any car that’s qualifying for these shows can win the race on Sunday,” he said. “That makes it very difficult for the crew chiefs and the drivers, but that’s what makes it fun for the fans, that extremely competitive side-by-side racing. You do see teams that do get little breakout runs and Allen and I, being the past two reigning world champions, want to keep our names at the top of this list.”
Certainly, the J&J operation has been the class of the field in Pro Stock since Coughlin joined forces with Johnson in 2012. In fact, Coughlin has been a force to reckoned with since he entered the national ranks. He became the first driver in NHRA history to win in four categories (Pro Stock, Super Stock, Comp Eliminator and Super Gas) in the same season in 1997 and his 54 Pro Stock wins rank him fourth all-time in the category.
Despite the success, the 43-year-old knows there are plenty of times when both the driver and the team is challenged.
“There are going to be bumps in the road, there’s no question about it,” he said. “Every day can’t be perfect, as we all know. In Pro Stock racing, that’s even more true, because you’ve got 14 other cars on Sunday that are looking to up end you. But I think having that championship-caliber team, having the drive to be able to take a situation that maybe isn’t going quite the way you want to, you step back and reevaluate in a very quick manner, because in some cases, we are talking a 50-minute time frame between first round and second round as we were just faced at Englishtown.”
In the NHRA’s last event at Englishtown, New Jersey, Coughlin and the team overcame a poor first-round effort to ultimately win the race. Coughlin certainly appreciates how the team works together, often watching Allen Johnson alongside his father Roy. With Bristol being on Father’s Day weekend, Coughlin also spoke of his own father, Jeg Coughlin Sr., whose business still serves his team’s primary sponsor.
“He’s probably one of my biggest supporters and always has been, which is just phenomenal to have in my corner,” he said. “He’s probably one of the more brilliant people I’ve ever worked with in my whole life, in a lot of different ways, but in the racing world, he’s just been phenomenal and it’s great to have him in my corner.”comments powered by Disqus