DENVER (July 20) – The weekend hasn't gone exactly as planned for JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger driver Jeg Coughlin Jr., but the four-time Pro Stock champion is as confident as ever heading into Sunday's eliminations for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
Coughlin qualified No. 9 with a pass of 6.996 seconds at 196.42 mph, but that was made in the final qualifying session Saturday when track and air conditions were not the best. The run was second only to teammate Allen Johnson for the session, turning around what had been an oddly difficult weekend for Coughlin.
"I feel really good after that last shot," he said. "Now that we have good data from that last run we can work on the set-up for E1 tomorrow."
Coughlin tested at Bandimere last week, and his teammate Johnson is traditionally one the quickest cars on the mountain. Since Coughlin's car is set up identical to Johnson, he figured he'd be right there with the defending Pro Stock champ. But it didn't work out that way.
"Here we are in Denver at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals, and obviously Mopar is a huge supporter of both Allen's and our programs," Coughlin said. "Allen made some great runs yesterday. We struggled with my car for some reason. We came here and tested a week ago and were really fast. I had all the confidence in the world. We basically set his car up like mine, and ours just wasn't responding."
So Coughlin, crew chiefs Mark Ingersoll and Jim Yates and engine builder Roy Johnson went to work on the tune-up.
"We made some changes going into today," Coughlin said. "It picked up a little bit this morning, not ET-wise, but Roy made some more adjustments for Q4, and the drivability was fantastic."
Coughlin could tell right away he was on a quick pass.
"When I let the clutch out, it planted the rear and really started to accelerate," Coughlin said. "It was then I knew I was going to be on a pretty good pass. It moved around a little bit in third and fourth, which kind of surprised me, especially with all the headwind we have. But it's hot. The track is extremely hot out there, and I imagine a touch on the greasy side. But we were able to traverse down through there and improve on our qualifying run. A.J. went .98, and we went .99."
Coughlin greeted some young fans when he got to his pit area after Q4, taking the time to race with them, too.
"I signed their little plastic John Force Funny Cars," Coughlin said. "We put some water down for them and let them do a burnout. Then I match-raced them a couple times and had a ball. That's some good mojo going into game day."
And what a game day it will be. Coughlin faces past Pro Stock champion and current points leader Mike Edwards in the first round. Edwards qualified No. 8 with a pass of 6.995 at 197.51 mph. The winner of that matchup will face Johnson, who gets a bye run in round one because there are only 15 cars here.
"We've really got our work cut out for us tomorrow, starting with Mike Edwards," Coughlin said. "Obviously, the winner of that race is going to get A.J. in the second round, so it's going to be a tough day. But when aren't they a tough day? Typically, you see those two guys later in the day – hopefully they're looking at the ladder and saying the same thing."