Since the NHRA has honored the top first-year professional with its prestigious Auto Club Rookie of the Year award, only five drivers from the Pro Stock class have done enough to earn the title. It’s quite an accomplishment as candidates can be drawn from all four professional categories, and of course it’s an award a racer only has one shot at winning.

After earning the 1992 Super Gas world title and becoming the first (and to date, only) driver to win a national event in four different categories in 1997, Coughlin began his rookie Pro Stock season in 1998 with high expectations, both of himself and from his peers. But past accomplishments mean little in drag racing and the youngest of the four Coughlin racing brothers that run JEGS Automotive Inc. had to go out and prove himself just like everyone else.

As he has from the start of his career, Coughlin delivered, winning four national events in eight final rounds and putting together and impressive 42-16 race day record. His work during the season nearly had him surpassing his original goal of being Rookie of the Year as he finished second overall in the Winston Championship Points.

A star was born, and the ’98 Rookie of the Year award became a precursor to Coughlin’s unprecedented success ever since.


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