POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 15) — “Big Daddy” Don Garlits didn’t do it. Neither did Shirley Muldowney.

By qualifying for this weekend’s 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals Saturday afternoon, 38-year-old Jeg Coughlin Jr. did something two of his drag racing idols never accomplished — he won a fourth world championship in a professional category.

Streaking through NHRA’s ’08 playoffs with an exceptionally strong effort that produced a victory, two runner-up finishes, a semifinal ending, and a quarterfinal result, Coughlin arrived at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona needing only to make the 16-car field to clinch the 2008 title. He’s now won four Pro Stock championships since the start of the new millennium (2000, ’02, ’07, and ’08) to go with his 1992 Super Gas world title.

“This is an extremely sweet moment for me,” Coughlin said. “It’s a new generation with the Countdown to 1 and we’ve been fortunate enough to win both championships under this format. It’s a real testament to the caliber of this team and its ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure is at its highest. These guys are stout.

“I’ve been guilty of not enjoying these moments along the way. I’ve always been so focused on the next race, the next trophy to win, the next title to work towards, that I don’t stop and take in what’s happening around me. But in the last few years I’ve spent a lot more time looking back at the photos of my family and the trophies we’ve earned together and really cherishing enjoying those memories. I will definitely enjoy this one.”

The key to this championship was consistency. Coughlin led the POWERade points on two occasions earlier this season and ascended back to the No. 1 spot for good in the second playoff event in Dallas. On the other end of the equation, he never dipped below fourth place, always keeping himself in the championship mix.

“The level of competition is insane, starting in our pit with my teammate Dave Connolly,” Coughlin said. “Then you have the two KB Racing cars, Warren and Kurt Johnson, Larry Morgan and all his customers, Allen Johnson, and on and on, they’re all such worthy opponents. They keep you motivated to work that much harder.”

Heading into the final race day of the year, Coughlin already has won three races and secured five runner-up, five semifinal, six quarterfinal, and three first-round results. His won-loss record in eliminations is 43-19, the best in the Pro Stock class.

By winning his fourth professional-level championship, Coughlin is now in a tie for eighth on the all-time list alongside Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, Gary Scelzi, and Lee Shepherd. In Pro Stock, he now trails only Bob Glidden (10 titles) and Warren Johnson (six titles).

“My pop (Jeg Sr.) has been a big part of this title,” Coughlin said. “He’s was with us via the Internet for most of the year and came out in person for the Countdown races. He and Roy Simmons, our crew chief, work so well together. Our team owner, Victor Cagnazzi, has given us the best of the best, including all of the people he’s hired throughout the organization. They all share in this championship.

“This makes me think of 1990 when I first started racing and I won the Bud Spring Nationals in Super Gas at my hometown track in Columbus, Ohio. It was the first time I really got to feel what it was like to be an NHRA champion. To stand here now all these years later and see where my career has gone and what my family has been able to accomplish is just outstanding. I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

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