PHOENIX (Feb. 26) – Six-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., driver of the JEGS Mail Order team flagship JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro for Elite Motorsports, raced to the 67th semifinal of his storied career today during eliminations of the second event in the 2017NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the 33rd annual NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, just a few miles outside the Phoenix city limits.
Coughlin started eliminations Sunday from the No. 5 qualifying spot (6.541 seconds, 211.30 mph) in his Rick Jones Race Cars-built Camaro. He defeated Allen Johnson and Vincent Nobile in the first two rounds respectively.
Coughlin matched up against Drew Skillman in the penultimate round. The two drivers put on a great show for the huge crowd at Wild Horse Pass, but Skillman was able to use a small holeshot to edge Coughlin at the finish line by a scant .019 seconds, 6.581, 210.28 to 6.582, 210.05.
After struggling last season to get a winning combination of power and pipes, Coughlin has started this season with a setup of performance and chassis that is showing more and more promise each time his bright yellow racer blasts down the quarter-mile.
"Coming into the season, our focus was just horsepower, horsepower, horsepower and it looks like we have accomplished some things there," Coughlin said. "We had a great run as we were sorting things out through qualifying. We had a great run in Q4. I was low in Round 1 today and wasn't far off in round two.
"We made just a so-so run in the semis against Drew. We felt like we could probably go out there and run a .56 and just left a couple behind there and then obviously left 2 (hundredths) behind on the starting line. We will certainly not hang our heads a bit."
Coughlin, one of the most dominant racers in NHRA history, has 76 national event victories in 383 events, so he's no stranger to momentum shifts and the ebbs and flows that accompany competing in NHRA's most competitive class.
"We’ve got some good momentum going within the team here that I think is going to earn us some momentum out on the racetrack as we come down the season opening stretch and head into Gainesville (next event), one of my favorite races of the year," Coughlin said.
"We’ll likely make some laps prior to Gainesville. I’ll see if I can’t hop behind the wheel myself, too, and see if we can’t tune up some things there."
Rookie Troy Coughlin Jr., driver of the SealMaster Toyota Top Fuel dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports and Jeg's nephew, was also in action for the legendary Coughlin family in Phoenix.
Troy Jr. qualified in the No. 6 position for race day with a career-best run of 3.696 seconds, 326.48 mph. He took on No. 11 qualifier Scott Palmer in Round 1. The SealMaster Toyota Top Fueler dropped a cylinder early in the run and that allowed Palmer's dragster to get to the finish line stripe first, 3.872, 266.21 to 3.833, 317.42.
"You know, we are making progress," Troy Jr. said. "I really believe that mentally the strings are loosening as far as the hesitations in this thing. I’m getting more and more comfortable so we’re just going to roll along to Gainesville.
"Connie’s (Kalitta, team owner and drag racing legend) coming to Gainesville so we’re going to have a little bit more mojo. Everybody did an awesome job and I really appreciate all of the SealMaster Toyota guys for what they are watching me go through. They’re not rookies at this, I am, and I really appreciate the fact that they can have such a good attitude. I couldn’t do it without them."
Jeg Jr. and Troy Jr. will compete next at the famed Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, March 16-19.
FOX FS1 TV coverage of eliminations begins with three hours of elimination action at 4 p.m. MT, Sunday.