DELAWARE, Ohio (Feb. 8) — Six-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. has announced 2020 as his last full-time season in professional drag racing. He'll complete his efforts racing alongside teammate Erica Enders at Elite Motorsports, driving the JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro tuned by Rickie Jones. Coughlin's final campaign will be dubbed the "Breaking Barriers Tour," in reference to his many racing accomplishments.
Beyond this season, Coughlin plans to continue competing in select NHRA events at the Sportsman level as well as some local and national bracket races. He also isn't ruling out the possibility of returning to Pro Stock for the occasional race, should an opportunity present itself.
"Since 1997, I've been able to live out my biggest childhood dream by racing with my family and following my Dad and older brother Troy into the professional ranks and racing a Pro Stock car," Coughlin said. "We've been able to win six championships, five in Pro Stock, and 82 national events in a variety of classes. It's been a remarkable run.
"It certainly hasn't been an individual effort. It's taken so many talented crewmen and crew chiefs, engine builders and chassis experts, my incredible family, everyone at JEGS, and all the other companies that have partnered with us through the years. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario."
The main impetus for Coughlin's decision to slow down is to redirect the amount of time and effort it takes to professionally race. The NHRA reduced the Pro Stock schedule from 24 to 18 races last year, which helped some, but the demands were still significant enough for him to make the call to step back.
"The transition to 18 events was great for me," Coughlin said. "It allowed for more family time as well as some extra work days at JEGS. I realized early on how nice it was to be more present outside of racing. Our daughter Carly is 5 this year and has so much going on, and my son Jeg III is 23, graduating from college in the spring and is ready to chase his dream of playing professional golf and ultimately on the PGA Tour. We stay busy, and it was great to be there for many more moments last year."
Coughlin had so much fun with his extra time off in 2019 that he almost jumped off the professional carousel at the conclusion of the season. But the numbers added up a little better for one last full-scale campaign in 2020.
"This is the 50th year of Pro Stock and the NHRA has some neat things planned to celebrate that milestone," Coughlin said. "Our company is celebrating its 60th year in business, so we'll be able to promote that occasion with our race program. Plus, I'm turning 50 so it seems like a bunch of things fell into place to continue into 2020.
"The support of the fans also has driven me for many years. People stopping by and sharing stories or even just hollering the famed 'JEGGGSSS' when we roll through the pits is so cool. We're lucky to have so many supporters."
Some of the more notable "Breaking Barriers" moments in Coughlin's career include his six titles (Pro Stock in 2000, 2002, 2007-2008 and 2013; Super Gas in 1992) and 82 national events wins (63 in Pro Stock). He's also the only driver to win a national event in seven different eliminator classes — including four in one season — and the only professional to win from all 16 qualifying positions.
Remarkably, Coughlin won in just his second Pro Stock start and was named Rookie of the Year the following season in 1998. He also earned a spot in the Car Craft Allstar Team on several occasions and won the $50K Winston Invitational.
At the Sportsman level, Coughlin was crowned the Moroso 5-Day Overall Champion and Race of Champions winner. He is a two-time JEGS Allstar Champion and the Hemi Shootout champ.
"We've definitely had some fun," Coughlin said. "And my passion to continue is still there. I'm not hanging up my helmet by any means. It's just that as we age our priorities shift and other things move to the forefront. It's been an incredible ride and it's not an ending, just pulling back a touch."
Fans of the yellow-and-black JEGS team may have a new Pro Stock driver to cheer for in the future as third-generation ace Troy Coughlin Jr. recently tested in his Uncle Jeg's racecar to rave reviews.
"I’ve had countless conversations and races alongside Troy Jr. as he was growing up," Jeg said. "He's always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps in Pro Stock, and we had a great time in our pre-season testing together. In fact, I made three runs total and he made 21. If the stars align and Pro Stock is indeed his future he would do a remarkable job."