BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 19) – The sight was familiar, yet unfamiliar.
Five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., winner of 58 race in his glorious career, raced to his first semifinal finish of 2016, beating Bo Butner and Allen Johnson in the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.
That was the 108th semifinal finish of Coughlin's career, but the first this season with his new Magneti Marelli offered by Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Dart.
"The ultimate goal is to advance through four rounds and win the race," Coughlin said. "As our fans, friends and family know, it's been an infancy year for us, even when you look at the talent around this team. It's caught us all off-guard, quite frankly, but we are where we're at."
Coughlin's race came to an end against No. 2 qualifier Greg Anderson.
"Our #AllAboutDad weekend has come to a conclusion on the race track," Coughlin said. "We'll get home and celebrate with our families more tonight and in the coming week. We look forward to Norwalk in a few short days."
Coughlin's yellow-and-red Dodge carried the hashtag #AllAboutDad on the nose in Bristol, in honor of Father's Day and a special campaign between JEGS High Performance and Dockers.
But the first round was all about Jeg Jr., as his stellar .002-second reaction time gave him a big enough advantage to hold off Bo Butner's low-of-the-round pass of 6.645 seconds at 207.85 mph. Coughlin had a .073-second head start, and his run of 6.716 seconds at 207.85 mph was enough to get the win light.
He then beat a sliding Allen Johnson in round two with a pass of 6.746 seconds at 204.63 mph, as Johnson had to lift when his Dodge got out of the groove in a 6.971-second pass at 167.32 mph.
"We kinda got away with one there first round against Bo – on a holeshot win," Coughlin said. "I really felt like we could run with A.J. I ran a .71 first round and felt like we could clean that up and run with him. Of course, he could have cleaned his up, I get it.
"But I felt confident we had a really good percentage chance of turning on the win light second round. It felt nice to do that."
Then came the semifinal match against Anderson, and Coughlin was again off first with .020 light. But Coughlin Elite Motorsports Dodge started shaking the tires, and he could only watch as Anderson sped to the final round.
"I felt we'd have a real tall order against Greg and Jason (Line) and Bo from a performance standpoint," Coughlin said. "We got just a little jump off the line. As it turned out, we got into some tire shake. I saw Drew Skillman right in front of us get all kinds of crazy and about went across the center line at the 60-foot clock.
"That's when you dig deep and have faith in your car. We rolled out a little farther than he didn't and then it started shaking. It was going nice and straight through the shake, and I was trying to get it in the next gear, the next gear, the next gear because you never know what's happening in the lane over there. I saw Greg motoring by, and that was all she wrote."