Yet for all his victories, the one that remains his favorite is his first, which took place in 1997 at Houston Raceway Park in just his second professional start. He hopes to recapture that glory April 9-11 at the 23rd annual NHRA Spring Nationals in the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas.
“I have a lot of great memories of HRP,” Coughlin said. “Of course, that first Pro Stock win was a highlight. We were just getting our feet wet in the class, prepping for the ’98 season, and we ended up winning. It really was unexpected, but very exciting.
“I also got my first Super Stock win there in 1994 under pretty much the same scenario. It was a new car for me and it was just my second race and I won it. There must be some good mo-jo in Houston.
“Without question, it can be the fastest track on tour. It’s at sea level and the Angels always have it prepped very well. They’re racers and they know how to keep it in top shape. I’ve probably been down that strip more than anywhere else. It’s so good we always go there to test. I just feel very comfortable in Texas.”
The 39-year-old Coughlin has added two more Pro Stock wins to his Houston total since his breakthrough victory in ’97, earning the HRP trophy in 1998 and 2000, the first year he won the championship. But he now points to his current dry spell in Southeast Texas’ usually rich oilfields as one he needs to end.
Coughlin’s JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt is certainly capable of blowing the roof off the class, as he proved last weekend with a performance that earned him the No. 1 qualifying spot in the field. His incredible Spindletop-like effort knocked Mike Edwards out of the top position for the first time in a dozen races and proved Coughlin and crew have what it takes to challenge for another world title.
“People may be looking at our team and wondering what in the world is wrong with the JEGS car,” Coughlin said. “The car actually is running great. It’s very drivable, and we’re making horsepower. We’ve just had some race day struggles, like having to abort the first-round run in Charlotte when we were ahead of the other three cars.
“We’ve gone over the car from bumper to bumper and found nothing wrong. We’re not sure why it starting spinning the tires like that. No one else seemed to have trouble there so it’s a bit of a mystery, but that’s how it goes at times in Pro Stock.”
For support, Coughlin needs to look no further than HRP’s pits, where older brother Troy will be prepping his JEGS.com ’68 Chevrolet Camaro for a run at the second Pro Mod Wally trophy of the year. Jeg’s fiancé Samantha Kenny also will be racing in Super Comp.
“Racing as a family is something we’ve always done,” Coughlin said. “We’re most comfortable when we’re together. I know Troy is sorting out a new combo in his car because they changed up the rules a little over there so he’ll be fresh off a test session, and Samantha has been driving great in her hot rod so she should contend for the title as well. It’s going to be great to have them around.”
Pro Stock qualifying begins at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. Friday.
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