GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17) – JEGS.com driver T.J. Coughlin had plenty of reasons to smile after scoring his first Super Gas national event victory in Sunday's NHRA Amalie Oil Gatornationals.
For starters, the "Gators" is considered one of the top NHRA races of the season. Plus, JEGS founder Jeg Coughlin Sr. – T.J.'s grandfather – celebrated his 75th birthday on Friday.
"It's very cool," Coughlin said. "It's a very historic class at an historic race at an historic facility. It's definitely a privilege to do it on Pappy's 75th birthday weekend, too. This is for him."
Finally, Coughlin was able to beat girlfriend Mia Tedesco in the final round.
"To race my girlfriend in the final is huge because she's one of the toughest drivers out there right now," Coughlin said. "Honestly, I think she's the toughest driver out there right now. To race her and beat her is nice. To beat any good racer is nice, but it was just neat to race my girlfriend in the final in one of the top national events and make a good race out of it."
Coughlin, the son of reigning Pro Mod champ Troy Coughlin, more than made a good race out of it. In a class where reaction time is crucial, Coughlin's lights were all .026 seconds or under. In the final, he left on Tedesco with a .018-second reaction time to Tedesco's .069. On a 9.90-second dial-in, Coughlin made a pass of 9.930 seconds as Tedesco broke out with a 9.884-second pass.
"She's beaten me twice already, and she's always as tough as nails," Coughlin said. "A lot of good fortune came our way this weekend."
Coughlin's quest started with a first-round win Friday. On Saturday, he won two more rounds in his JEGS.com '57 Corvette, beating Carl Mitchell on a holeshot in Round 2 before beating Peter Biondo in Round 3.
Coughlin made a solo lap in the quarterfinals Sunday before knocking out John Taylor in the semifinals.
The victory was the third national event win for Coughlin, with the first two in Super Comp. He lost in Super Comp here on Saturday, losing control of his car and crashing after the finish line. Coughlin was unhurt.
Coughlin hopes to continue his winning ways in his next event, the 2013 JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals on March 22-24 at Belle Rose, La.,.
"I'm enjoying it," Coughlin said. "I'll keep plugging away and do the same thing. We'll try to do our best."