One year ago, the five-time world champion came into Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country and won the race, spring-boarding his way into the NHRA playoffs where he won his second Pro Stock title in a row and fourth overall. He’s also the ’92 Super Gas world champion.
Last year’s Reading final was the first of four down the stretch that put Coughlin out of reach in the championship chase, making the intimate facility in the rolling hills an hour outside of Philadelphia one of his favorite tracks.
“I’ve been racing Maple Grove for a long time,” Coughlin said. “When I was competing at the Sportsman level this was always one of the tracks we liked to come to and race. It was close enough to home (in Delaware, Ohio) where we could race on the weekend and still make it back to work on time Monday morning.
“Since I’ve been racing Pro Stock I’ve come to realize how fervent and knowledgeable the Reading fans are for this class. There are fans of Pro Stock everywhere we go but for whatever reason the folks on the east coast take it up a notch higher. I don’t know if they realize how much the racers appreciate their support. It really picks us all up.”
Aside from last year’s victory, Coughlin has two other wins at this event, claiming another Pro Stock title in 1999 and the Super Gas crown in 1996.
This time through, Coughlin is hoping to maintain his top ranking in the Full Throttle championship point standings. He’s been No. 1 after the last 12 races in a row, fighting off numerous challenges from a small handful of contenders. Currently, he’s 27 points ahead of Jason Line.
“We’ve enjoyed fairly large leads and we’ve had them breathing down our necks so we’re in familiar territory,” Coughlin said. “There are always challenges in this class, that’s what makes it so exciting.”
The Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals is the 17th of 18 in the regular season. The six-race Countdown to 1 begins in early September in Indianapolis. Since the NHRA implemented a playoff system in 2007, Coughlin is the only driver to win the Pro Stock title.