Coughlin and most of the staff at Victor Cagnazzi Racing recently took the short trip from their Mooresville, N.C.-based race shop to fine-tune their set-up at zMax Dragway in nearby Concord. The test served two purposes as it gave the team a chance to perfect their racecar and also gave Coughlin and crew an early preview of zMax Dragway, site of the first of six playoff races in the Countdown to 1.
“We have very few complaints about the first 15 races of the year,” said Coughlin, who has won an NHRA best five national events as well as the $50,000 K&N Horsepower Challenge. “We’re close to having one of our best years ever, and we’ve been fortunate enough to win five world championships, so we’ve had some good years before.
“Even so, we really wanted to go and test some things. With Pro Stock, races are routinely decided by hundredths and even thousandths of a second so we’re certainly focused at all times on gaining every advantage we can. We run these cars on the very edge of technology and you’re always thinking there’s something more you can be doing. You know all the other teams are so you have to push the limits to stay up front.”
With three races left before the Countdown to 1 playoffs begin in mid September, Coughlin holds a semi-comfortable 60-point advantage over second-place Mike Edwards. That equates to three rounds of race day action and with only 12 rounds left before the Countdown begins, every round — and every point — looms large.
“I’d rather be up 60 points than down 60,” the 39-year-old Coughlin said. “We’ve enjoyed greater leads this year and we’ve had others close the gap to almost nothing so this isn’t anything we haven’t encountered before.
“We’re holding nothing back because we really would like to start the playoffs as the No. 1 team so we can get that 20-point bonus after they rest the points. It’s hard to say we’re already in playoff mode because the playoffs are still a pretty new concept to us in drag racing. The good news is we’ve won the championship both times since they started the playoffs so we’re certainly enjoying the format.
“Basically, it places a premium on those last six races. That’s when you need to be in top form. For this team, however, we try to be in top form every week so I don’t know if you can reach another level. We’re obsessed with winning from the season opener until the finals. Brainerd will be no different. We want to win this race.”
Coughlin has recorded four national event victories at BIR. He won the Super Stock crown there in 1997 and the Pro Stock trophy in 1999, 2002, and 2007.