DELAWARE, OH. (Oct. 18) — Despite a valiant effort that included a semifinal finish, John Coughlin’s bid to repeat as the NHRA North Central Division Top Dragster champion ended at this weekend’s Lucas Oil Series event at Silver Dollar Dragway in Reynolds, Ga. Needing nothing less than a win to keep his title hopes alive, Coughlin qualified No. 1 in the fast field and then won the first three elimination rounds before his hopes were dashed by Casey Spradlin, who defeated the dragster in a very close race that was decided by just five-thousandths of a second at the finish line.
Coughlin also turned in an impressive performance behind the wheel of his Cobalt in Comp Eliminator, but that drive ended in round three, where he lost to Van Puckett.
“We gave it our best shot but it just wasn’t enough this time,” said Coughlin. “In Top Dragster, I knew that I needed to win this race and that was my goal but I just got beat in a good close race. I’ve got no excuses. It just didn’t go my way this time. I even called [current points leader] James Monroe to tell him what happened because I knew he was trying to follow along from home and I know what it’s like sitting by the phone waiting for news. I congratulated him on a great season and told him that I’d be back again to try next year.
“In Comp, I think the car ran as well as it has this year but once again, I got beat in a good, close side-by-side race. I drove pretty well but sometimes that isn’t enough. I can’t win a championship this year but we’re going to go out to Las Vegas for the last race of the year in a couple of weeks and see if we can’t end the season with a victory. I basically had two brand new race cars this year so all things considered, I don’t think I did to badly. Champion or not, I certainly had fun.”
It was a similar story for third generation racer T.J. Coughlin, who ventured to the Northeast Division Lucas Oil Series race at Atco Dragway in Atco, N.J. to pursue the Division 3 Super Comp title. Resuming action following a rain delay two weeks ago, Coughlin lost in round two, officially ending his bid to claim the Division crown.
“I didn’t have to win this race, but I needed to go further than the second, round,” said T.J. “I didn’t get it done and that pretty much ends my chances for the division. To make matters worse, Steve Mikus, who is leading the standings, went to the final round here [at Atco] so I don’t think I could have caught him anyway. Now, I just need to see if I can stay in the top ten. It would be a great honor to finish in the top ten.”
Coughlin, whose highlights this year include a win at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, could potentially join his uncle John at the Las Vegas event, but at this point, it’s more likely that he will venture to Florida this November to participate in the high dollar E.T. bracket events that make up the annual Winter Series.
“I’ll make that decision later this week but right now, I’m leaning towards the bracket races,” said T.J. “Racing for $10,000 or more each day, there is not only a lot of money to be made, but those races are a lot a lot of fun. It’s also a great opportunity to hang out with a lot of our JEGS Mail Order customers and I always enjoy that. No matter what happens, I’ve had a great season so I’m not about to hang my head.”
While John and T.J. Coughlin were busy racing at Atco and Silver Dollar, respectively, their JEGS Mail Order teammate, Kenny Underwood, was competing at the season-ending IHRA event in Richmond, Va., where he captured the Tournament of Champions victory in the Hot Rod class. Underwood, who primarily serves as a crew chief and a mentor for T.J. Coughlin, has now won the IHRA series title in two of the past four seasons.
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