After a lackluster qualifying effort left him 12th on the 16-car grid, Coughlin came alive in eliminations, upsetting three-time world champion Greg Anderson in Round 1 with a 6.652 to Anderson’s 6.688 to set the tone for his memorable day. His crushing start spooked both Rodger Brogdon and top qualifier Mike Edwards into foul starts in Coughlin’s next two races, sending him to his 77th final round in Pro Stock.
With the prestigious Indy trophy on the line against Greg Stanfield, Coughlin wouldn’t be denied, zooming down the quarter-mile in 6.689 at 206.48 mph to barely outpace Stanfield’s 6.691 at 206.37 mph.
“We had Lady Luck on our side today, no doubt about it,” Coughlin said. “We started with a huge match-up against Greg Anderson and it seemed like the weight of the world was on us there. He beat me off the line but we had the power to track him down and take the win. That sort of set the day in motion.
“Against Rodger in the second round we went into severe tire shake and couldn’t make it down the track but when I looked up I saw the win light on in our lane and I realized he had fouled out at the starting line. That was another huge break.
“Me and Mike have had some battles this year and we all know how good that car can be. I got up on the wheel to race him and felt like I hit the tree real well but I still sensed that he had left first. Once again, I looked up and saw that he had fouled out, so we got another round win right there.
“Greg (Stanfield) and me were welded together all the way down the track. He beat me by a thousandth of a second off the line and I beat him by two-thousandths at the other end so we won by the slenderest of margins. I’ll tell you right now, I’ve got nothing left in my emotional tank. I’m completely drained.”
In Round 1, Coughlin and his Mooresville, N.C.-based Victor Cagnazzi Racing team secured the No. 1 ranking heading into the NHRA’s Countdown to 1, the six-race playoff that begins Sept. 18-20 with the Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C. The feat is worth 20 bonus points after the standings are reset for the Countdown to 1.
“Winning Indy is a dream for drag racers,” Coughlin said. “Keeping that No. 1 ranking was a big goal and it’s great to get it done because we worked darn hard for it. Now we start over, for all intents, and we need to reset and get set for the playoffs. It’s going to be a thrill.”
Coughlin has led the Pro Stock class for the last 14 races and his seven victories leads the NHRA, including racers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
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