INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 1) – Mike Coughlin took his first steps towards a third NHRA North Central Division Top Sportsman championship after guiding his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt to victory Sunday in the season-opening event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. For Coughlin, the win was his fourth at the historic venue including his two Pro Stock Truck victories at the prestigious U.S. Nationals. He also won the Top Sportsman class at the 2008 Indy Lucas Oil Series event. More importantly, the victory was first since recovering from hip and knee surgery that kept him sidelined for most of the 2010 season.
“I didn’t get a chance to race much last year and I really missed it,” said Coughlin. “It is good to be back. I really enjoy racing and I’ve gotten a lot of support from my family and all my fellow racers. I didn’t feel any pain at all today. My knee has never been better and my hip is almost perfect. My wife, Kriss, and our sons, Jack and Clay, were here with me this weekend and it couldn’t have been any better.”
Coughlin’s driving was solid throughout all five rounds but he was especially impressive in the final where he had a nearly-perfect .001 reaction time and ran a 6.76 on his 6.75 dial-in to defeat opponent Billy Thoman, who broke out at the finish. Ironically, Coughlin also had a .001 reaction time when he defeated Scott Perin for his first U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Truck win in 1999.
“I did get a couple of lucky breaks today but my car was very consistent and my driving was decent,” Mike continued. “It’s a lot more fun to race when everything works right and it all worked right today. My car was especially impressive. I have one of the faster cars in the field but I was getting down the track better than some of the slower cars. As for the .001 light, that was a bit of an accident. I wasn’t trying to be that quick. That was part of my luck. That could just as easily have been a red-light. I really have to thank my dad, Jeg Sr., my brother, Jeg Jr., and Greg Cody and Tony Collier for all their help this weekend.”
In addition to Mike’s Top Sportsman victory, the yellow and black colors of JEGS Mail Order were also highly visible in other classes including Super Comp where Jeg and T.J. Coughlin and Jeg’s fiancée, Samantha Kenny, all advanced to the late rounds. Jeg, who was a last minute addition to the Indy field after the JEGS Spring Doorcar Shootout was postponed due to rain, drove to a round four finish before losing a close race against Samantha in Super Comp. Jeg also reached the semifinals of Super Gas in his new Corvette roadster. Samantha went on to reach the semifinal round before losing a close battle against Brian Shockley. Had Samantha been able to win the round, she would have raced her brother, Jason, who went on to win the Super Comp title.
Third generation racer T.J. Coughlin also made his presence felt with a round four finish in Super Comp with his JEGS.com dragster. T.J. is locked in a heated battle to earn a spot on the team for the upcoming JEGS Allstars event in Joliet but lost to one of his biggest rivals when he red-lighted against current leader Leo Zynda by three-thousandths of a second. All told, the five JEGS Mail Order entries in action this weekend managed to combine for 21 round wins during the event.
“I took a shot at the Tree and it bit me,” said T.J. “I knew I needed to have a good light but I was quicker than I had anticipated. My car ran fine this weekend, but you have to drive it to win and I didn’t drive it as well as I could have. Hopefully, I didn’t lose too much ground in the points. We’ll just have to go to Norwalk [Ohio] in two weeks and try it again.”
Coughlin plans to get some practice in at next weekend’s Dave Himes Memorial Race at Muncie Dragway before heading to the next North Central Division Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series race in Norwalk, May 13-15.