SCHERERVILLE, Ind. (July 16) – With the support of his family and under the watchful eye of his crew, Cody Coughlin drove a steady race and brought the JEGS.com Chevrolet home in seventh place in Saturday’s Illiana 100 JEGS CRA All-Stars Tour race at Illiana Motor Speedway.
The 15-year-old from Delaware, Ohio, was racing on the half-mile asphalt track for the first time, like most tracks on the JEGS All-Stars Tour. But after qualifying 12th in the 20-car field, Coughlin battled his way to the top 10 after 100 grueling laps.
“First of all, I have to thank the Lord for everything He’s done for me,” Coughlin said. “And I have to thank my family, too, for coming to watch me.
“I was pleased with the team’s work. They all did a heck of a job. The numbers didn’t quite line up like I had hoped with a top-five, but we were close. Everybody did a great job.”
Crew chief Rich Lushes, who also serves as Coughlin’s spotter, was impressed, too.
“I’m really happy with our performance tonight,” Lushes said. “We came in here with a goal to finish in the top 10, finish every lap, and we got out of here with seventh, with the car in one piece, and he got 100 laps of experience.
“I’m really, really happy with the performance. A lot of the guys who finished in front of us are local guys who race here week in and week out, so I’m happy. It was a good points day for us, and we were rookie of the race. I’m really happy with our results.”
Coughlin extended his lead in the Howie Lettow Rookie of the Year standings and gained ground in his pursuit of the top 10 in the All-Stars Tour points standings.
The JEGS.com machine was the first car on the track for qualifying and Coughlin clocked in with a 19.980-second lap, respectable for running when the track was its hottest.
Coughlin soldiered through three caution flags in the first seven laps – caution laps did not count – and moved into the top 10 by lap 25. At the halfway point, Coughlin was running eighth and then battled past ARCA veteran Chad Finley to take seventh place with 18 laps remaining.
“He’s a good racer, a clean racer,” Finley said. “It’s definitely an honor to race with people like him. And it’s an honor to be able to be somebody like that. It was fun.”
Coughlin proved to have a deft touch on restarts, which can be crucial on a flat short track like Illiani because the outside lane is not preferred. But Coughlin, despite being trapped on the outside on several restarts, did more than hold his own.
“Flat tracks are always hard to get good restarts on,” Coughlin said. “It’s real slippery. I think my restarts were 100 percent better tonight than they were earlier in the season.”
Said Lushes, “There are two grooves at this race track, and the inside was usually a lot better than the outside. He hung really tough on the outside, and he’s getting better each week about doing that.”
Coughlin also improved during the race about how to attack the track, thanks to some coaching by Lushes. Getting around a flat half-mile track is not as simple task, as drivers need to be smooth and steady on the steering wheel.
Plus, drivers face changing conditions as the sun goes down, cooling the track.
“The air pressures change throughout the night, especially when you have long green-flag runs,” Coughlin said. “The tires go away and you lose grip. You have to sometimes change your driving style, and you have to play with the throttle quite a bit as well.
“The car was anything you could’ve wanted at the end. I quit arcing it in the corners toward lap 50, driving it in flat. The car kept shoving up in the center of the corner. As soon as Rich came on the radio and told me to arc it in more, it helped a bunch. I could keep it on the bottom and come off the corner with a solid line.”
Lushes was clearly pleased.
“He did a great job tonight,” Lushes said. “There’s nothing we can take from this night and say, ‘We can make this better.’ I think he did an excellent job tonight, raced hard in traffic, and that’s really important. There’s nothing I can see that we need to gain on.”
Coughlin’s family – dad John, mom Di, and sister Kennedy – were all on hand cheering for Cody.
“It’s very cool,” Coughlin said. “My family always comes, and that’s nice. But my uncles and my grandparents come when they can, and they’ve all got busy schedules. They take it out of their schedule to come watch me every once in a while, and I appreciate it. It means a lot.”
Coughlin races again in the Stanley Steemer 100 presented by JEGS at Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Ill., on July 30.
Scott “Woody” Woodruff
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