Of course, to pull off the feat, a driver must have won from the 16th and final qualifying slot, one of the toughest tasks in the sport as it signifies that the other 15 racers all ran quicker elapsed times leading into the elimination rounds.
But in perhaps one of the biggest underdog stories in the lengthy history of the prestigious U.S. Nationals — the sport’s longest-running event — Coughlin managed to rise from the ashes and score arguably the most unlikely victory of his career.
The year was 2000, and Coughlin started race day against red-hot top qualifier Mark Osborne. The two thrilled the crowd with a lengthy staging battle it proved to be a distraction for Osborne and Coughlin was able to gain a .045-second head start and took the win on a holeshot. In Round 2, Coughlin came from behind to beat Allen Johnson by .01 seconds, before taking out Mark Pawak.
In the final, Ron Krisher was in the other lane but Coughlin once again pulled off a stunning starting line advantage of .045 seconds to take the trophy with a 6.968 to Krisher’s quicker but losing 6.927. The final margin of victory was just 14 inches, a perfect finish to a remarkable day.