MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jeg Coughlin Jr. cruised his way to the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Pro Stock championship in the AutoZone Nationals, but he had a tougher time going after the event win. After scoring nine wins this season, Coughlin never saw his...
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jeg Coughlin Jr. cruised his way to the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Pro Stock championship in the AutoZone Nationals, but he had a tougher time going after the event win. After scoring nine wins this season, Coughlin never saw his main competition for the title. Second-placed Kurt Johnson failed to qualify for Sunday's eliminations and third-placed Ron Krisher was eliminated in the first round, giving Coughlin the title.
Coughlin now has his sights set on breaking records. His final-round victory over Scott Geoffrion gave him 10 wins in 2000, one shy of Darrell Alderman's record of 11 in 1991.
Geoffrion had set a national elapsed time record of 6.809 seconds in qualifying, and the final was anyone's. Both drivers hit identical 0.435-second reaction times and were side-by-side the entire distance. Coughlin eked out a 5-foot victory at the finish, 6.878-second, 199.69-mph against Geoffrion's 6.896/199.11 mph run.
"What an exciting day for us," Jeg said. "To run eight 6.8-second laps in one weekend is unbelievable. To my knowledge it's never happened before. And winning the championship, well, I don't think that's even sunk in yet.
"I never wish anything bad on our opponents but everything happened right for us to clinch the championship here. After two runner-up seasons in a row I can't tell you how sweet it will be to put that No. 1 on the car next year.
"Putting a championship team together is easy to say but hard to do. I couldn't have done it without everyone in the entire Jeg's Mail Order family."
Neither could Pro Stock Truck racer Mike Coughlin, who scored his first National win of 2000 at Memphis moments before his big brother's run. Coughlin got the win when rival Steve Johns redlighted, but he still drove the quarter-mile in 7.473-second, 179.11-mph.
Ron Capps sprinted to his first Funny Car win in two years when Whit Bazemore's blower backfired shortly after leaving the line. Capps still posted a 4.925-second run at 297.22 mph. The win moved Capps into second-place as Jerry Toliver was eliminated in the first round.
Things were not as joyful following the Top Fuel finale. Gary Scelzi won his record eighth race on the new Goodyear Eagle D1230 , but he wasn't in a mood for celebrating. Scelzi smoked his tires at the start of the final while Larry Dixon streaked away to an apparent win. But shortly past half-distance, Dixon's car buckled, lifted off the ground and snapped in two. He emerged with a broken bone in his ankle and some bruising, and may race at Dallas in next week.
For Scelzi, it was his second pass of the weekend where his opponent met with misfortune. During Saturday's final qualifying run, 1999 champion Tony Schumacher's rear wing broke, launching the car into a series of barrel rolls. Schumacher suffered six fractures in his left leg.
"Eighth win of the season and worst of my career," Scelzi said. "To go though what we went though this weekend with Tony and Larry -- I just thank God they're OK. The win means nothing. It was Larry's win. It'll be hard to smile in the trophy picture. It's a tainted win."
Dixon's teammate Capps was also shaken. He was conducting his winner's interview when Dixon crashed. "It's a terrible feeling because he's a good fiend and you feel so helpless," Capps said. "It's scary. This was one of those weekends where you're glad to get through every round. I still think this sport is the safest in the world. This weekend, despite it's bad wrecks, proves it because both Larry and Tony are basically alright."
Goodyear-equipped cars also picked up two wins in the Sportsman ranks at Memphis. Frank Aragona won the Competition Eliminator title while Peter Bionda was tops in Super Stock.
The SCCA Valvoline Runoffs, lived up to all expectations once again, providing some truly exciting racing over the course of three days and crowning 24 amateur racing National Champions. Goodyear-shod cars emerged from the frosty, windy, rainy -- and sometimes snowy -- Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with 10 National Championships.
Freddy Baker started the Goodyear hit parade in the very first race for Touring 1 on Goodyear's DOT Eagles. In a wet race, Baker started his Porsche 996 from pole, but dropped to fourth in the first-lap shuffle. He picked his way through the leading Vipers and found the lead on lap four and stretching the advantage to 3.362 seconds at the finish.
"It wasn't easy," Baker said. "This morning I went to full rain Goodyear tires. I started the race on absolutely green tires, and they made a big difference.
"Early in the race I was behind the Viper; I don't have the power to stay with the Vipers, and they dragged away from me. Then I got the tires up to temperature and the car went better. The yellow made me nervous, but I kept the tires warm and kept the lead on the restart. The Porsche was better in the rain than the Corvettes. I have less power, and I was easy on and off the throttle. I had good tires, and it all helped."
Those comments were heard again and again over the weekend. Other Goodyear winners included Andy McDermid (American Sedan), Larry Connor (Formula Atlantic), Aaron Ellis (Formula 500), Matt Beardsley (Formula Mazda), Chris Winkler (Formula Ford), David Finch (GT-2), Mike Cyphert (GT-3), John Olsen (GT-4) and Joe Huffaker (GT-5).
Goodyear-shod cars also claimed nine runner-up spots and 11 third-place trophies at the Runoffs. The 30 podium finishes were the most by any tire manufacturer this year.
"Certainly the introductions of the new rain tire paid dividends immediately, and we had great success with many of the new tires developed over the past year," said Bob Shaffer, Goodyear's marketing manager, sports car. "With this type of racing and in these conditions, anything can happen, but to come away with 10 wins and 30 podium finishes is a great accomplishment.
"A lot of the credit needs to go to the racers who helped to develop the tires; in several cases, their efforts led directly to wins," Shaffer added. "These results also provide Goodyear with a benchmark for next year. Our engineers are already discussing ideas for 2001 and we're looking to increase market share in several classes through the development of a quality racing tire."
Matt Crafton's win in the Food 4 Less 150 at Irwindale Speedway puts the Goodyear-equipped driver 163 points ahead of his nearest rival for the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series chase. The Tulare, Calif. Driver took the lead from Augie Vidovich on lap 129 and never looked back.
"My dad (crew chief Danny Crafton) was just hollering, 'Go, go, go,'" the winning driver said. "You don't look in the mirror in that situation, at least I don't."
Crafton can win his first NASCAR championship by averaging 21st in the final two races.
The NASCAR Goody's Dash Series race at Coastal Plains Raceway was a B.J. Mackey affair. The Rock Hill, S.C., driver set a new track record in qualifying, then led 111 of 125 laps. Jake Hobgood took a tenuous lead at the start, but it was only a matter of time -- 14 laps worth -- before Mackey took over and led the rest of the way. Hobgood finished second ahead of Robert Huffman, who could lock up the championship at the next race in Lakeland, Fla.
Hal Goodson is making the most of his opportunity in the USAR Hooter's ProCup. After starting the season without a ride, Goodson was tabbed as a midseason replacement and took his new car to the winner's circle on his fourth outing. At Tri-County Speedway, Goodson found himself back into victory lane, holding off Bobby Gill over the final six laps. Gill's runner-up finish made him the first series driver to earn more than $100,000 in a single season. Jeff Agnew, Sean Studer and Andy Thurman rounded out the all-Goodyear top five.
The Pennzoil World of Outlaws returned to the South for two nights of racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Donnie Schatz, fresh off his victory at Williams Grove, continued showing his hot late-season form by winning Thursday's "A" preliminary, winning every race on the night and leading every lap during the 30-lap final. Mark Kinser, Paul McMahan and Sammy Swindell finished third, fourth and fifth.
The next night was all Mark Kinser's, as the defending series champion backed up his May win at Lowe's. Starting third, Kinser got around Schatz and took up pursuit of cousin Steve Kinser. He made his move in Turn Four on the 20th lap, but gave it back to Steve when he was trapped behind lapped traffic. Mark regained his speed and took off after Steve again, beating Steve into the low groove in the second corner on lap 38, speeding off to an eight-car length win at the flag.
Swindell's certain third-place finish disappeared when his rear-end broke, giving the spot to Schatz who finished ahead of Stevie Smith.