Fulfilling the wishes of crew chief and mentor Gary St. Amant, a two-time short track world champion, Coughlin smartly used his first race as a learning experience, avoiding accidents, pulling off quick pit stops, and completing all 100 laps in his yellow and black JEGS.com Chevrolet Impala.
“That was a lot of fun,” Coughlin said. “I knew I was in for a big day when we got there and saw all the cars in the pits and all the fans walking around. It was like, ‘here we go. This is what we’ve practiced for.’ It was a lot different than any testing we did in the past.
“We got out there in the first practice session and I got my first experience in passing people and being passed, feeling what it was like to be out there with a bunch of cars, going fast. It was about the way I imagined it would be.
“Once qualifying started I was really concentrating on what I needed to do to execute fast laps and come in and out of the pits correctly. It all went pretty well.”
At the conclusion of time trials, Coughlin had settled into the No. 21 starting slot for the main event, which went off at 9:30 p.m., making it the latest start of his fledgling racing career.
“I wanted to race hard and I wanted to be smart,” Coughlin said. “You want to earn the respect of the guys you’re racing with. I think we did all of that.
“It seems like I encountered all kinds of situations. At one point a guy spun out in front of me and I had to go real low and accelerate around him to keep from hitting him. On the back straightaway there are no guardrails and some people went off, which would kick up a bunch of dust and make it hard to see. Other times you’d be behind someone and they’d bottom out and sparks would shoot all over the place. It was like a battlefield out there.
“I would have liked to have had a top-10 finish but I did manage to pass some people and finish higher than I started, so that was good. I learned the lines and how to switch lines to pass. It was a good experience, especially seeing the checkered flag at the end. It actually went by really quick. That’s how it goes when you’re having fun.
“It was special having my mom and dad and sister, Kennedi, there with me. I want to thank them for their support.”
A past champion in USAC .25 Midgets, Coughlin next races his 420-horsepower machine on Aug. 20 in the fourth annual Mid-Michigan Dixie Challenge 100 at Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run, Mich.
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