A different path to the top DELAWARE, Ohio (May 8) -- Jeg Coughlin Jr. has won four Pro Stock world titles in his illustrious drag racing career and each one has been distinctly different from the others. Maybe that explains why he's taken such...
A different path to the top
DELAWARE, Ohio (May 8) -- Jeg Coughlin Jr. has won four Pro Stock world titles in his illustrious drag racing career and each one has been distinctly different from the others. Maybe that explains why he's taken such an unorthodox course to the 2009 points lead.
In 2000, the 44-time national event winner dominated the field at the start of the season and rode his early success to his first title. In 2002, the opposite happened and Coughlin rode a late-season surge to secure the hardware.
When the NHRA went to a two-tier playoff system in 2007, Coughlin successfully stayed in the hunt until the last race of the season when he eked out his third crown over a worthy trio of contenders. Once again in 2008, he cooked up a different formula during the expanded six-race playoff series and won his fourth championship with air to spare.
"Each one has been an adventure," Coughlin said. "It's kind of neat the way it's turned out because they are all so memorable for vastly different reasons. It's allowed us to appreciate each one for what it took to get it done."
Although the 24-race '09 season is only seven races old, Coughlin and his JEGS.com team from Victor Cagnazzi's racing stable are already dreaming of a "threepeat." If they do manage to win it all, they will follow a familiar road in that this championship run would be unlike any other.
Coughlin has won three races in five final-round showings this year and his 20-4 race day record and 637 point total in the Full Throttle rankings is the best in the sport, including all four professional categories. What's piqued the interest of the fans and the media is that Coughlin clearly doesn't have the best car at the moment. His average qualifying position is sixth, meaning the ladder doesn't always stack up in his favor. Still, he's winning races the old fashioned way -- by out-driving his opponents.
"I kind of chuckle when I get asked about that because, although there may be a small handful of cars out-performing us on the stat sheets, when you take a step back and look at Pro Stock these days, that advantage is really only a hundredth of a second or two," Coughlin said. "Would I like us to pick up two hundredths of a second overnight? Of course. But that's not the way it works.
"We made the decision to move into a new car in the off-season, which is tough to do when you just won a championship with the old car. We're just seven races into the season. This Cobalt still has that new car smell. Once we get it matched up with our power curve, we'll be in great shape. You just can't do that all at once. You have to finesse these cars, and the guys have been doing a great job all the way around."
A quiet person by nature who is quick to deflect praise to his teammates, Coughlin admits to feeling a little uncomfortable when the media points to his driving prowess.
"It's obviously a great compliment to hear that," Coughlin said. "But I look at the other drivers in this class and I see a bunch of really stout dudes. I don't take anyone for granted.
"Racing is such a team effort. You could have the best driver that ever lived out there but if he doesn't have a smart crew chief, hardworking guys turning the wrenches, talented engine builders, a great chassis builder, and a strong team owner, that driver would never win a round.
"I can say without hesitation that in all my years of racing I've only won one event where I felt like we had a distinct performance advantage. That was in 2000 at Atlanta and for whatever reason everything came together and we were a good five hundredths better than everyone else. That's almost unheard of in this day and age. I woke up on race day and told myself, 'Don't screw this up.' Fortunately, we won the race and the title that year. The point is, racing is never easy, but that's what makes it so fun."
-credit: team jegs