For most racers, a win at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is usually enough to make any season a successful one and that was certainly the case in 2010 for third-generation JEGS driver T.J. Coughlin. Following his inaugural win at the 2009 Las Vegas event, Coughlin continued to make steady progress in the highly competitive Super Comp class last season as he won the sport’s premiere event, and posted an eighth-place finish out of more than 1,000 regular competitors.
“When I was in high school, I made a list of my goals and one of them was to win the U.S. Nationals before I turned 22,” said Coughlin, who won the Indy title a few weeks after his 20th birthday. “To me, that was a dream come true, especially since my dad (Troy Sr.) won Indy when I was just a kid. That made it even more special.”
It’s no surprise that Coughlin was able to enjoy a successful season in 2010 as his confidence skyrocketed following the Las Vegas victory a year earlier. In addition to his Indy win, he was a late round fixture at many Super Comp events and he also made his mark at big money E.T. racing events, holding his own against some of the toughest sportsman racers in the country.
“I was in third place for a month during the summer and eventually finished 8th in Super Comp,” said Coughlin. “I also had a shot to win the Division 3 championship but I red-lighted by a thousandth of a second at my home race in Columbus. That was one of the few low points of the season.”
As impressive as his results were, Coughlin contends that the ability to work together as part of a team was the biggest lesson he was able to take from the 2010 season. In addition to the wisdom shared by his father, Troy Sr., and his uncles, John, Mike, and Jeg, Coughlin was also mentored by E.T. champ Kenny Underwood.
“Coming into this year we had high expectations because of my win in Las Vegas and thanks to my team we were able to meet them,” said Coughlin. I really like the idea of being part of a team. Kenny and I work so well together. We communicate well and we’re almost always on the same page. That wasn’t always the case in 2009 so I think the whole communication thing was as important as anything else I was able to accomplish this year. I think it’s a shame that Kenny doesn’t get more recognition because he’s so good. I don’t think I could find a better teacher.”
Given his success, Coughlin doesn’t see the need to make major changes to his racing program in 2011 so he isn’t going to. However, he does plan to get an early start on the competition by heading to Florida shortly after the first of the year for the first major east coast racing events in West Palm Beach and Bradenton, and the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville. While in Gainesville, Coughlin plans to celebrate the upcoming International Drag Racing Hall of Fame induction of his grandfather, Jeg Coughlin Sr.
“I’m really looking forward to the Florida trip and it will be great to have all of the family together for the Hall of Fame ceremony,” said Coughlin. “I’d like to see if I can score some points early and then try to finish the season at Pomona next November. I’m also planning to race in as many big bracket races as I can. Those races are very competitive, but they are also a lot of fun. I’d definitely like to win one soon.”
Coughlin also acknowledged that he may get a chance to drive his father’s new turbocharged Pro Mod Camaro, a car that should easily run in the five-second zone at over 250-mph.
“We talked about it but right now I’m not sure,” said Coughlin. “Maybe I could do a burnout or two but I don’t think I’m ready to be going that fast right now. I think I’ll stick with my dragster for a while longer. I did say that I’d like to try Pro Stock someday so hopefully that’s still an option for down the road. No matter what, I had a lot of fun last year and I can’t wait to come back and try again.”