TOPEKA, Kan. (June 9) — Troy Coughlin Jr. did his sponsors proud this weekend at Heartland Park Topeka, powering his Weld Racing At JEGS.com hot rod to his second runner-up finish of the last three races, this time at the 31st annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals.
"It feels great to have another big weekend with Weld Racing on the car," Coughlin said. "They're a family business, just like we are at JEGS, and it's really cool to show them a result like this in their backyard. Big thanks to everyone at Weld for supporting us these last two races. Here's to many more years of racing together through JEGS.com.
"What can I say about Rich and Richie McPhillips and this crew? They've had this car absolutely running on a rail. Three different races under all kinds of different track conditions and they don't miss a step. We wanted the win, for sure, but taking runner-up behind Shawn Cowie and that team isn't bad at all. We claimed some great national points today and that's always a good thing."
A Cowie versus Coughlin finale was fitting as the two decorated racers set the pace for everyone else to follow. In qualifying it was Coughlin reeling off a 5.265 at 271.19 mph to secure the No. 1 position heading into eliminations. That's when Cowie raised the bar, putting pressure on the McPhillips Racing team to match his output.
"Shawn started running 5.21s today and we felt like we needed to get after him in the final to have a chance," Coughlin said. "Rich tuned it up and the car was very aggressive off the line. Then it jumped to the right and the front end hiked itself up there a bit. That put us into a bit of tire shake and Shawn was able to cruise away."
Officially, Coughlin got a head start with a .050-second reaction time to Cowie's .069-second launch, but his big wheel stand and subsequent tire issues allowed Cowie to zoom past and take the trophy with a 5.213 at 279.15 mph — the quickest and fastest pass of the entire weekend.
After beating Jared Dreher Saturday evening with a 5.294 at 273.50 mph, Coughlin started Sunday with a tough matchup against Jackie Fricke, whom he beat with a weekend-best 5.226 at 275.56 mph to her 5.342 at 273.00 mph. Then came Gord Gingles, who went down by a 5.247 at 275 mph to 5.326 at 269.51 mph margin.
"Racing Jackie Fricke is always extremely tough," Coughlin said. "She's an absolute beast in that car. A very tough east coast racer. Jared and Gord are both staples in the Top Alcohol class. Then we had Cowie. I mean, nothing comes easy in Top Alcohol Dragster, but we love the challenge. It's so much more satisfying when you're able to beat some of the best drivers in the sport. We feel very fortunate."
Coughlin takes a weekend off before returning home to race in Northwest Ohio at yet another NHRA national event.