Mike Coughlin’s 2010 drag racing season was an abbreviated affair that included just four events behind the wheel of his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt Top Sportsman entry but while he was unable to win a race or defend his North Central Division championship, he ultimately emerged from the season with something much more valuable; his health. Coughlin began his season at the JEGS NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals in Belle Rose, La., and also participated in the inaugural NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C. However, disaster struck at the Division 3 Lucas Oil Series event in Norwalk, Ohio, when Coughlin suffered a hip injury that kept him from participating in Sunday’s final eliminations. Less than a week later, he was on the operating table, undergoing a complete hip replacement.
“I was born with a hip defect and throughout the years it has given me a little trouble from time to time and it also contributed to some problems with my knee,” said Coughlin. “While we were racing in Norwalk last April, it popped and that was it for me. It totally gave out and I underwent hip replacement surgery and they also operated on my knee so I was pretty much done for a while.”
After months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, a determined Coughlin returned to the driver’s seat for his final appearance of the season at the Division 3 Lucas Oil event at the team’s home track, National Trail Raceway. After enduring such a lengthy recovery, it was not surprising that his first pass felt as good as any win he’s ever experienced.
“It was good to get back in the car, even if it was just for one event,” said Coughlin. “It was a long summer, and at times you started to wonder if it was ever going to get better. I didn’t do too well at that race, but it was great just to get back to the track and see all my friends and get back in the car. I couldn’t have been happier if I had won the race. It meant a lot just to be there after everything I went through.”
Despite his injury, the season was not without its bright spots. After upgrading his engine program, Mike did record career best numbers with several runs in the 6.7-second zone at over 205-mph. He also loaned his car to friend and fellow competitor Ricky Adkins for the JEGS Allstars event in Joliet and Adkins delivered an impressive semifinal finish.
Coughlin is now preparing for what he hopes will be a pain-free 2011 season and he’s already mapped out a schedule that will allow him to race in some of the most popular Top Sportsman events.
“I’m still not 100-percent but it’s much better than it was and I continue to get stronger and stronger each day,” he said. “From here on out, I hope it’s all good and I’m already looking forward to getting back out there next season to see if we can compete for another championship. I’m going to start at my favorite, race, the JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals in Belle Rose and I will also race in all of the Division 3 events and possibly a few national events. I’m also considering a west coast trip so I can race at the JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals in Fontana. I think I’d really enjoy that.”
Coughlin also expects to have the same solid race car underneath him in 2011, although it is likely to be even quicker than it was last season.
“We just got the car apart and we’re looking to make a few updates and maybe even a little more horsepower,” Mike said. “We might be able to pick it up four or five hundredths which would put it in the 6.60s at close to 210-mph. It’s really fun to drive that fast and in Top Sportsman, I feel like it’s a bit of an advantage to have one of the quicker cars in the field.”
Coughlin is also looking forward to racing with his family, including his brother, Jeg, who recently announced that he will not race in the NHRA Pro Stock class, but will rather compete in a variety of sportsman eliminators including Super Gas, Super Comp, and Stock. Mike’s brother John, and nephew, T.J., will also likely accompany him to many events. Troy will be racing in the GSA Pro Mod Series again. Mike also plans to continue working with his oldest son, Jack, who is active in the Jr. Drag Racing League.
“I’ve got a lot going on next year but that’s the way I like it,” Mike said. “I want to stay busy especially after being out of action for most of this season. I’m definitely looking to make up for lost time.”