Two-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. won the 41st annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals Sunday at Pomona Raceway for his 34th career victory. The win snapped a two-year drought for the 35-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, who last won at the September 2003 Chicago event.

Coughlin earned this win with some exceptional driving. He started the day out-running Phoenix winner Allen Johnson by a 6.739- to 6.783-second margin. He then took a gigantic holeshot win over three-time and reigning series champion Greg Anderson, leaving with a near-perfect .004-second reaction time to steal the win with a 6.742 to Anderson’s 6.717.

In the semifinals, Coughlin faced Rookie of the Year Jason Line, who was spooked into red-lighting away his fractionally better elapsed time. It was more of the same in the final against Tom Martino when the veteran racer jumped the tree fourteen hundredths of a second too soon. Coughlin’s winning time was a 6.722 at 204.73 mph.

“We had a good run today and it’s all on account of [crew chief] Bob Glidden and the crew,” said Coughlin, who confirmed rumors that he was leaving Don Schumacher Racing. “We qualified well on Thursday and Friday but Saturday morning we hurt the motor. We put the back-up one in there and we dropped off so Bob and the guys basically spent the night fixing the primary motor and their work obviously paid off.

“The guys deserved this. If effort won trophies we’d have earned a bunch of them this year. It’s been about one year since this team was formed and I know the crew guys and Bob haven’t had many days off, and their days are usually 14-16 hours long. So naturally they’re very, very excited.

Just after celebrating in the winner’s circle at Pomona Raceway for the fifth time in his career, Coughlin announced that he’s leaving Don Schumacher Racing.

“I’m easing off to the side for awhile,” Coughlin said. “My home is in the NHRA but things didn’t work out here exactly the way I had hoped. I started questioning if I was still enjoying myself mid-summer and when that happens it suddenly hits you that you need to step back and reevaluate what you’re doing. I’ll be back, but I need a break.

“I don’t think any of the people involved can put a finger on why this didn’t work. Certainly Don gave the team everything they needed to succeed. For whatever reason it just didn’t pan out. I want to thank Don for the opportunity and I wish him the very best of luck moving forward. I’m hopeful that someone will slip into my spot and do really well in the year’s to come.

“My true love for the sport was born in the sportsman ranks and I plan on racing as much as possible with our stable of cars. I want to rekindle that special feeling of competitiveness that has driven me and my brothers for so long. I have a lot of friends in the sportsman classes and it’ll be fun to go head-to-head with them again. It will also be real nice to get away from the pressures of racing at the top level for a little while.”

In 1997, Coughlin became the first NHRA racer to win national events in four separate categories when he won trophies in Pro Stock, Super Stock, Competition Eliminator, and Super Gas. Overall, he has 12 national event wins in the sportsman ranks. Coughlin was the 1997 Super Gas world champion.

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