POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 17) — Five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. concluded another impressive season Sunday when the Ohio-based drag racer collected his 63rd class trophy at the 55th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals. Coughlin's impressive playoff run, which started with an eighth-place ranking six races ago, ended with him trailing only teammate Erica Enders in the final standings by just 21 points.
"What a great exclamation point to the season," Coughlin said. "Coming here second in the points, trailing only Erica, who absolutely killed it during the playoffs, we still had an outside chance to win the championship, so we decided to be super aggressive. We had four great qualifying runs and ended up No. 1 on the time sheet, which had us pumped coming into today.
" We stayed after it hard today, in what turned out to be the hottest day of race weekend, and pulled off the event win. It's exciting, especially when you add in Erica winning the title for Elite Motorsports. It would have been fun for Erica to have been opposite in the final but her glory came in the quarterfinals when she clinched her third championship. Just a wonderful ending for everyone at Elite."
This is the second consecutive year Coughlin has finished second in the points, and the fourth time, overall, he's been runner-up to the championship. This also marks his 13th top-five finish and his 18th top-10 finish. The only times Coughlin finished outside the top 10 were in the three years he raced only three national events. Coughlin started racing Pro Stock in 1997.
"I know Rickie (Jones, crew chief) and the yellow and black crew scratched every thousandth of a second of performance out of the JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro all weekend," Coughlin said. "The numbers were slightly slower today from the heat but it's obvious my guys executed their game plan and executed it very well. Especially today because it was slippery out there until the finals."
As the top qualifier, Coughlin started the day with a walk-over of No. 16 qualifier Joey Grose, posting a 6.570 at 210.28 mph well ahead of Grose's 6.670 at 207.82 mph. He then faced teammate Aaron Stanfield, who allowed Coughlin a .043-second advantage at the starting line, which pretty much decided the contest, Coughlin arriving at the other end with a 6.599 at 209.49 mph to Stanfield's 6.611 at 209.56 mph.
Coughlin was extra sharp in the semifinal against past world champion Bo Butner, using a .015-second head-start to steal away a holeshot victory, his 6.588 at 209.98 mph beating Butner's quicker but losing 6.582 at 210.64 mph.
Leaving nothing to doubt, Coughlin beat Fernando Cuadra in the money round, posting a 6.558 at 210.54 mph to Cuadra's 6.604 at 209.72 mph to win by .03 seconds, or about 10 feet in length.
Sunday's victory is the seventh for Coughlin at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona. He also won the NHRA Winternationals in 1999 and 2000, the 50th anniversary summertime event in 2001, and the NHRA Finals in 1999, 2005 and 2007.
Including his work in the Sportsman classes, Coughlin has a total of 82 national event victories and six world titles. Coughlin's lone Sportsman championship came in Super Gas in 1992.