DELAWARE, OH. (Nov. 22) —  Third-generation racer Troy (T.J.) Coughlin Jr. is looking forward to a relaxing off-season following a whirlwind tour of three Florida dragstrips during the annual Winter Series high stakes E.T. bracket races. Competing in 15 events in a span of 17 days, Coughlin put more than 80 runs on his dragster, only slightly fewer than he had in an entire year of Super Comp racing. Competing against the best bracket racers from across North America, Coughlin found the experience to be both educational and rewarding.
“That was one wild roller coaster ride,” said Coughlin. “One day you’d do well, the next day not so well. I feel like no matter how good you think you are driving, you never know when the guy in the other lane is going to make a perfect run and beat you. I’m drained right now, can’t even feel my body. I feel like I’ve lived an entire career in the last three weeks. I can say for sure that I learned more down here than I have at any time in my career. Racing every day will teach how to focus and avoid distractions. I used to let little things bother me, but now, nothing is going to get under my skin.”
Coughlin’s extensive road trip began at Immokalee Regional Raceway, an eighth-mile track located in the Southwest part of the state. There, Coughlin enjoyed his first taste of success as he defeated his friend and crew chief, Kenny Underwood in the final round of Friday evening’s High Roller Gambler’s Race.
“That was definitely the highlight of the trip,” said Coughlin. “I really had a great time at the Immokalee track. [Track operator] Ralph Hester makes it a lot of fun for everyone. I’m definitely looking forward to going back next year.”
From Immokalee, Coughlin ventured north to Bradenton Motorsports Park for an additional five days of racing. Unfortunately, he was unable to advance past the third round of competition in any of the events.
The final leg of the tour was the highly anticipated 5-Day E.T. championships at Palm Beach Int’l Raceway just outside Jupiter, Fla. The overall points championship at the Palm Beach 5-Day is considered one of the most prestigious in sportsman racing. Coughlin’s uncle, Jeg, claimed that title in 2003 and still considers it one of his greatest achievements. Racing in a combination of eighth-mile and quarter-mile events, T.J., posted several late-round finishes, including a semifinal in the last event of the weekend.
“If I had to give myself a grade, I would say a B plus,” Coughlin said. “I felt like I drove well but I also could have done a little better job in a couple of rounds. I had one race against Nick Folk where I had a .008 reaction time and ran right on my dial-in, but it still wasn’t enough. That’s just one example of how tough it is down here. You just have to have the breaks go your way. I also made a lot of runs and the only thing we had to do to the car was replace a torque converter. My dragster was very reliable.”
Coughlin, who finished the season as the eighth-ranked driver in the NHRA Super Comp class, is already making his plans for next season and not surprisingly, his schedule will include more big E.T. events like the Florida Winter Series races.
“I’m still going to race in Super Comp but these [E.T. races] are so competitive and so much fun that I don’t want to pass them up,” said Coughlin “Next year, I’m also really looking forward to racing with my uncle, Jeg, and his fiancée, Samantha. They are going to be doing a lot of sportsman racing and it’s a dream come true for me to race with them. I’d also like to give the Top Dragster class a try. This week, we took the throttle stop off my dragster and I was running the 7s and that was a lot of fun. I’m definitely looking forward to going faster.”
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