The task seems easy enough. All the 45-year-old Coughlin needs to do to secure the first national championship of his illustrious career is qualify his JEGS.com Pontiac GXP for the final event of the National Muscle Car Association’s 2009 season.
Coughlin’s victories in Chicago and Charlotte, his national-record-setting run of 6.279 seconds at Route 66 Raceway, and the fact he had no Round 1 losses all year have given him a comfortable 465-point lead in the Scorpion Performance Pro Street class. But there are three other racers mathematically alive in the chase, leaving Coughlin a little bit of work to do.
“Until they say it’s over we’re going to race as hard as we have all year,” said Coughlin, one of four sons of drag racing legend Jeg Coughlin Sr. who now run JEGS Mail Order, the company their father started 50 years ago. “Plus, no matter the status of the championship points, we’re going to Memphis to win the race and we’ve shown we have a car capable of doing that. We might as well go out with a bang.
“Clinching this title has been on our minds, no doubt. It’s been six weeks since our last race and between everyone at JEGS Mail Order and my family and friends it seems to come up every day. It’s exciting that we all get to share in this moment together but it also makes you a little nervous. It’s not done yet.”
Coughlin is 465 points ahead of Chris Rini, 530 up on reigning champ Vinny Budano, and 555 clear of Noel Felton. With a maximum of 590 points available for a driver that qualifies No. 1, wins the race, and sets a national record along the way, all three men remain in the mix. However, if Coughlin passes technical inspection and qualifies, he’ll have earned enough points to clinch regardless of what happens during the race itself.
“We’re in a good spot and it’s really cool that I can be a part of a very special year at Team JEGS,” Coughlin said. “My nephew Cody already won the USAC .25 Midget title, my brothers John and Mike are closing in on the Top Dragster and Top Sportsman championships in Division 3, and my other brother Jeg Jr. is still in the fight for the Pro Stock title, so we could have five championships coming back to Delaware, Ohio. That would be unprecedented.
“The thing is Chris, Vinny, and Noel will be pulling out all the stops, and then you have guys like Bob Vorderer, Vincent Demieri, and Jeff Lutz who are great racecar drivers on strong teams that would love to come in there and win this race to end their seasons on a high note. And you have to factor in awesome conditions at Memphis Motorsports Park that will definitely allow for a national record and it makes you nervous.
“We’re bringing the same race car, the same motor, and the same tune-up that’s gotten us to this point and I know my guys will have us ready to race. All we need to do now is execute and everything will fall into place.”