Entering this weekend’s 22nd annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at beautiful Infineon Raceway, Coughlin will be feeling the heat from red-hot rival Mike Edwards, the only driver left with a legitimate chance of taking the top position from him before the Countdown to 1 playoffs start four races from now.
“The good news is we were fortunate enough to be the first team in the professional ranks to actually clinch a Countdown spot back in Norwalk (Ohio),” Coughlin said. “So we’re going to be in the hunt for a third straight title for this team no matter what happens over the next few races. At the same time, we’re not holding anything back because we’d sure like to get those 20 bonus points the top team gets for being No. 1 during the regular season. As we’ve seen the last few years, every point counts.”
After the U.S. Nationals, only the top 10 racers in the points in each professional category will be eligible to win the championship. To make things exciting down the stretch, NHRA resets the standings for those drivers and separates them by just ten points each from first to 10th place. The No. 1 driver then gets a 20-point bonus.
“When you say 20 points to me you’re really saying one round of action on Sunday because each round is worth 20 points,” Coughlin said. “Of course, whoever gets that bonus will be in slightly better shape than the others and we’d like to be that team. On the other hand, it’s not the end of the world if we don’t get it.
“A lot of what happens between now and then is out of our hands. All we can control is what we do with our racecar and how we race whoever might be in the other lane in any given elimination round. I do know this; if we race the way we’ve raced all year, we’re going to be in really good shape.”
Should Coughlin add his sixth victory of the season to his resume at Infineon Raceway he’s assured of leaving town with the point lead. He’s a former winner at the track, having claimed the hardware in 2003.
“It’s such a beautiful track and the location there tucked away in the wine country makes it special,” said Coughlin, a five-time world champion with 59 national event wins. “We come straight down from Seattle and spend the week enjoying the area and it’s always one of my favorite times of the year.
“I’ve got my good luck charm with me, my son little Jeggie, as he’s off from school at the moment and able to come on the road with me. I’d love to show him another winner’s circle celebration before he gets back to his studies in a few weeks.”