Dallas: Chevy Cavalier Racing preview

Breakthrough Win By Chevy Cavalier's Troy Coughlin Worth The Wait DALLAS, Oct. 16, 2001 - When the 2001 Pro Stock season is once and forever added to the drag racing history books, it may well be remembered as the year in which a number of ...

Breakthrough Win By Chevy Cavalier's Troy Coughlin Worth The Wait

DALLAS, Oct. 16, 2001 - When the 2001 Pro Stock season is once and forever added to the drag racing history books, it may well be remembered as the year in which a number of well-deserving competitors finally made their way into the winner's circle. One of those is Jeg's Chevy Cavalier driver Troy Coughlin who became the 13th different Pro Stock winner this season after claiming his first career victory at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa.

The performance of Coughlin's Cavalier on Sunday afternoon at Maple Grove was nothing short of phenomenal. In winning his first national event, the 37-year-old Columbus, Ohio native became the first Pro Stock driver to run four consecutive 6.70s in final eliminations. The 6.768 e.t. Coughlin ran in the final round against Tom Martino's Century 21 Grand Am and the 203.83 top speed in round one, were career bests.

"It's exciting," said Coughlin. "After all these years of racing we finally got it done. It took me longer than my brothers, but now that I've finally done it's a tremendous feeling. There's nothing like it - I've never experienced anything like winning that race.

"Our slowest speed on Sunday was 202 mph. That's because everybody did their job and I did mine. It wasn't perfect by any means, but we got the win. The trophy, the empty champagne bottle, the winner's circle hats, that's all in the racecar shop between the engine-building room, the dyno and the clutch room. All that stuff is spread around for all of those guys to enjoy. They deserve it. My Chevy Cavalier was fast and it's because of them."

Coughlin began his drag racing career in the Sportsman ranks winning in Super Gas at the 1991 U.S. Nationals. In '94 he made his debut in Pro Stock at the non-points Winston Invitational in Rockingham, N.C., where he qualified 12th. He qualified for his first national event that same year at Columbus.

In '96, Coughlin finished 11th, and in '97, using Warren Johnson horsepower, Coughlin appeared in his first final round at the Pontiac Excitement Nationals where he lost to Tom Martino. At the Winternationals that same year, he became the 11th member of the Holley Six Second Club and ended the season in eighth place for his first top-10 finish.

"I've always had the desire to go faster and faster," said Coughlin. "We decided since we were going in that direction that NHRA Pro Stock was the logical choice. We started off working with Larry Morgan on engines and got an old car from David Nickens. We got our feet wet, had a good time at it, qualified for a couple of races and thought it was the best.

"In '96 we got together with Steve Schmidt and raced out of his trailer with our car. Eventually, we needed more space and needed to give Steve back his space. We bought a tractor-trailer and continued to go full-time in '97. We were presented with a new opportunity that year with the help of Donnie Gardner, Buddy Ingersoll and Warren Johnson - that was a blast. We went to our first final round that year at Columbus and that was pretty special. Everyone was slightly disappointed that we didn't win, and I was too, but I was also pretty excited."

Racing with brother Jeggie on a two-car team in '99, Coughlin was runner-up at five national events, became the ninth member of the Speed-Pro 200-mph Pro Stock Club at Richmond and recorded his second top-10 with a sixth-place finish.

Y2K was a particularly good season for Coughlin. Although he entered the year still looking for that elusive first win, Coughlin came close at Gainesville and Chicago posting a pair of runner-ups. His breakthrough race came later that summer at the Winston Showdown in Bristol, Tenn., where he scored his first professional victory and $50,000 in prize money. He ended the season as one of only five Pro Stock drivers to qualify for every event, and in sixth place in the Winston standings for his third top-10 finish.

This season has presented a number of obstacles to the Jeg's Racing program. At Gainesville in March, the two-car Coughlin team switched over to their new '01 Chevy Cavaliers and experienced a short adjustment period that ended quickly with brother Jeggie's victory in April at Las Vegas.

"The Chevy Cavalier is a little bit smaller than the Cutlass," said Coughlin. "It's racier looking and the inside has just as much room. It's a great racecar. We've had problems that weren't car related that didn't make us look good, but we've gotten those ironed out, and everybody's on the same page and going in the same direction. The Cavalier has been a really strong car. It's completely different and seems to have a totally different attitude."

In July, engine builder Richard Maskin departed the program which created a new urgency in the development of the team's big-block engine program. With Troy's win, and Jeggie's national-record e.t. of 6.750 seconds at Reading, the investment is beginning to pay off.

"Our success can be attributed to staffing our program with good people," said Coughlin. "Plus the hard work from all of my brothers, my dad and everyone at Team Jeg's, Gary Pearman and all of his people. They've done a great job of doing what it takes to put together a small-block and a big-block engine program. To be honest, when we started building big-block engines in August of this year, I didn't think we'd have anything close to being competitive until at least next year.

"The big-block program came together faster than the small-block program, but we've broken a lot of stuff in the process. We got a couple of engines put together for Memphis and then things started to turn around. Now we're running quick, and we're running fast and it's a testament to the hard work behind everyone at the race shop. Those kind of people are hard to come by."

With three races left in '01, Coughlin is currently 17th in the points standings. A top-10 finish this year is beyond reach. But after his win at Reading, Coughlin has a new-found confidence that will make him a formidable opponent during the next month of competition.

"We're just going to try and repeat what we're doing, try to go rounds and try to get some of the momentum back," said Coughlin. "We're going to three great racetracks, and three different parts of the country where chances are, the weather will be somewhere in the mid 70s. We have a lot of different things we'd like to try but I don't think Gary's going to get away too much on a different tune up. We're just going to try and maintain, keep trying to go rounds, and try to win.

"Winning at Reading gives us the confidence in that now we know we can get it done. To run as strong as we did there right from the beginning was a real confidence booster - both in my driving and for the team members that work on these cars. Again, it's a whole different attitude from myself and from everyone on the team."

Troy Coughlin on Mike Coughlin driving a third Chevy Cavalier at Las Vegas - "We have two engines that are complete and we have three being assembled that we should have before we head west. We have three new Cavaliers of which we're taking one with us. Mike may drive one at Las Vegas. They have a lot of work left to be done on them before they'll be ready to race."

Troy Coughlin on '02 - "I'm not 100 percent sure what next year holds. I've always wanted to go faster and I think it would be a blast to go 235 mph in a Pro-Mod type car. With the amount of mental and physical work that we've done on the 500 cubic-inch Pro Stock engine program, that's probably where I'll end up staying. Who knows what the future holds though, that Pro Mod class with the superchargers and nitrous and fuel injection, that's right up my alley. There's a big interest in doing that but whether it'll happen or not is a different story. I'd say next year we'll probably dabble into that other stuff a little bit. To take a car similar to what we have and run 235 mph, to me is really exciting."

Troy Coughlin on safety - "I feel more at ease driving my Pro Stock Chevy Cavalier on the racetrack than I do when I'm traveling the six or seven miles to work - and it's all farm land out here. I'm strapped in a great racecar with all the required safety collars, and gloves and the HANS. I'm starting to wear the HANS. Jeggie uses it and seems to really like it. It hasn't affected his driving a whole lot so on Saturday at Dallas, I may give it a shot. Anything you can do safety wise is a no-brainer. The technology is there and it's race proven - it's just a matter of going with it."

-CCR-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Larry Morgan , Mike Coughlin , Tom Martino , Steve Schmidt