INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 1) — Five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. returns to action at this weekend's 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals with impeccable credentials at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. He has claimed drag racing's crown jewel four times, thrice in Pro Stock (2000, '02, and '09) and once in Super Gas (1992).
But for all his past glory at the sport's oldest and longest-running meet, Coughlin says nothing matters besides the task at hand: winning this year's race.
"The history, the success we've had, it's all good," said Coughlin, who last raced a month ago in Seattle, where he was runner-up. "But as we say, there are no provisionals in drag racing. That's one of the things we love; you have to prove yourself each and every weekend. Having won before or being a past series champion doesn't help you at the next race."
One of the most prolific drivers in NHRA history, Coughlin has only competed in two races this year, piloting the Chevrolet Camaro reigning Pro Stock champion Erica Enders took to last year's title. Despite being out of the seat for much of the year, Coughlin made an immediate impact in the powerful Ray Skillman Chevrolet-sponsored hot rod, riding Elite Performance horsepower to a semifinal and a final-round result.
"Richard Freeman has put together an exceptional group of crew chiefs, mechanics, and engine guys over there at Elite and it's been a pleasure to jump in and work with them," Coughlin said. "Having won races and titles in the past, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to run at the top level of the sport, and this group has that pedigree, obviously, with Erica winning it all last year.
"While we haven't been racing Pro Stock this year, we have entered a few bracket races, so I felt like my driving would be there and so far it's worked out. Of course, when you have a car as capable as this one underneath you, that certainly lifts a lot of burdens off the driver's shoulders. It allows you to fully concentrate on the task at hand when you're in the seat."
Familiarity with the facility should also pay dividends for Coughlin. Growing up as a Division 3 Sportsman racer, Coughlin has four additional victories in Indy to add to his four U.S. Nationals trophies — Super Gas in 1992, Comp in 1997, Super Stock in 2004, and Super Pro in 2008 — making it one of his favorite tracks.
"Just driving over there you start to get hyped," he said. "It's Indy. It's the U.S. Nationals. For drag racers, it doesn't get any bigger than this. When I pull off Crawfordsville Road my heart definitely picks up a few beats. I'm ready to go right now just thinking about it."
Coughlin will be joined in Indy by his brother Troy and nephew Troy Jr., who both compete in Pro Mod. Troy Jr. will also compete in Super Gas.