JEFFERSON, Ga. (April 8) – The full moon rising above Turns 1 and 2 of Gresham Motorsports Park was apropos for JEGS.com Chevrolet driver Cody Coughlin. But despite a myriad of issues, Coughlin drove to a sixth-place finish in Saturday night’s Beau Slocumb Memorial Pro Late Model race.
“Wow, that was a crazy race,” Coughlin said. “It seemed nothing could go right for us. I wouldn’t even know where to start with what all went wrong, but we still ended up sixth. I’ve got to thank (crew chief) Butch (VanDoorn) and all the guys for staying focused and working hard all night. We overcame a lot, and I’m proud of them all.”
Coughlin, 16, qualified the No. 1 JEGS.com Chevrolet 11th in a star-studded field for the special 208-lap event that was divided into three segments: 100, 75 and 33 laps. But early on, his car had difficulty getting going on restarts, and Coughlin would lose one or two spots on subsequent green flags.
Plus, the seat in Coughlin’s car wasn’t quite right, and he battled pain in the posterior the entire race – the longest of Coughlin’s young career.
On Lap 32, Coughlin deftly spun the No. 1 Chevy in Turn 2 to avoid a seven-car accident. He escaped without damage but was ordered to restart 16th in the field. Thirteen laps later, Coughlin rallied to 12th place, and by lap 79, Coughlin was turning some of the fastest laps on the track and had worked his way into the top 10.
He was eighth with eight laps remaining in the first segment when he felt a vibration from a tire going flat. Under caution on lap 96, VanDoorn brought the No. 1 Chevy to pit road to change left-side tires. That’s also when Coughlin noticed his left ear plug quit working. After the pit stop, Coughlin restarted from the rear of the field and finished 12th in the first segment.
“The car was really good all night but we just couldn’t get any momentum going,” Coughlin said. “As soon as we’d get rolling, something silly would happen, and we’d have to go to the back again. But like I said, the car was great all race long.”
The top 14 finishing positions from the first segment were to be inverted for the start of the second, but Coughlin was ordered to start at the back of the lead-lap cars after changing right-side tires and getting his ear plug replaced. VanDoorn argued with officials for Coughlin to be placed in a higher position, to no avail.
When the green came out, Coughlin was again on the move, and by lap 118, he had moved to seventh. Coughlin then avoided a two-car crash in front of him on lap 161 to pick up more positions. VanDoorn then ordered a right-side tire change that dropped Coughlin to an 11-place finish in the second segment, but also set the No. 1 Chevrolet up for a charge in the final 33 laps.
On the restart, Coughlin was bumped from behind by another car to lose position, but he kept going, rallying by five cars in the final 33 laps to finish sixth.
“With all the cards we were dealt and everything turning in a bad direction, Cody did an amazing job,” VanDoorn said. “He passed the most cars of anyone out there. We went to the back four times. But he did great and drove well. He would set them up and pass them all cleanly. He drove like a veteran out there.
“I am very, very happy with him. He finished all 208 laps, the longest race he’s ever driven. We definitely made a lot of progress, and we’re looking forward to the season.”
Coughlin begins the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour season April 22 at Plymouth Speedway in Plymouth, Ind.
“Now it’s time to go home, celebrate Easter with my family, and thank the Lord for the many blessings we have,” Coughlin said. “And for me that starts with my mom (Di), dad (John) and sister Jelly (Kennedi).”
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