POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) — With six world championships and 80 career wins, Jeg Coughlin Jr. is known far more for his winning ways on race day than his prowess during qualifying sessions. But he has added mightily to that second category this season, which he capped Saturday with a personal-best sixth low qualifier award of the year.
Just as he has throughout his career, Coughlin set his new mark in style, running his best pass of the 54th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals in the final qualifying session with a rocket-ship run of 6.510 at 211.49 mph. The pass showed a remarkable 60-foot time of .958 seconds.
"Rickie (Jones, crew chief) had the car set on kill," Coughlin said. "We knew we wanted to stay up front and felt like we could get after it as much as possible and not jeopardize, completely, making an otherwise solid run and we made quite a lap there.
"It felt fantastic from the time I let the clutch out until the time I turned off the track at the top end. Probably the best part of it was after crossing the finish line and hearing Rickie's voice telling me what I ran as I was coasting to a stop with the 'chutes out. He was so excited and that was very cool."
Prior to this season, the most No. 1 qualifiers Coughlin had earned in a single year was four, which he accomplished in two of his championship campaigns — 2000 and 2007. This year he tallied two in the regular season and a class-leading four in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
"We had a little pause between the second-to-last pairing and me and Erica (Enders, teammate) making our final qualifying runs there and that allowed it to cool off a little more, which definitely helped us make a stout run," Coughlin said. "I watched them crown the 2018 Pro Stock World Champion on the big screen from the seat of my JEGS.com Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and I think that time gave me a moment to reflect on this year. It got me fired up and ready to make a good run.
"Certainly, we're proud to have given the championship a good challenge this year and congrats to Tanner (Gray) and his team for finishing it out. They've obviously done a great job to be crowned 2018 Pro Stock Champions. Now we'll try to finish strong and take second place on the year."
Coughlin will open race day against Kenny Delco, who anchored the field with a 6.597 at 209.36 mph.
"We're looking forward to tomorrow and completing the 2018 season," Coughlin said. "We'll see if we can't do it in grand style as we have in the past."