MEMPHIS, September 23, 2001 - Dominating! That's about the only way to describe Mike Coughlin's weekend at the AutoZone Nationals after the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy driver defeated defending Winston champion Bob Panella Jr. in an-all S-10 Pro...
MEMPHIS, September 23, 2001 - Dominating! That's about the only way to describe Mike Coughlin's weekend at the AutoZone Nationals after the Jeg's Mail Order Chevy driver defeated defending Winston champion Bob Panella Jr. in an-all S-10 Pro Stock Truck final. It was also the second consecutive victory for Coughlin after his win three weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, and the second straight win for the 35-year-old Columbus, Ohio ace at Memphis Motorsports Park.
"We've never done this well before in Pro Stock Truck and we've been racing in the class for four years now," said Coughlin. "I'm surprised, but with as well as we ran at the U.S. Nationals maybe it's just an extension of the momentum we established there. It's been unbelievable, but I'm very thankful because our guys have been working hard to make this Chevy S-10 competitive."
For the second straight event Coughlin began eliminations from the No. 1 qualifying spot after setting low e.t. of the weekend with a track-record run of 7.422 seconds. He defeated Jerry Haas in round one, Randy Daniels in round two and Todd Patterson in round three before squaring off with Panella in the championship match.
Coughlin's performance numbers were strong and consistent given the hot, humid conditions of the afternoon, and he gave credit to the team's new small-block engine program. The Jeg's Chevy S-10 ran 7.456 seconds in the first heat, 7.449 seconds in the round two, and an eliminations' quickest 7.444 seconds in the semifinals.
In the finals against Panella, Coughlin's Chevy launched first and drove away to a winning 7.446 e.t. at 181.79 mph. Panella's S-10 crossed the finish line in 7.447 seconds at 182.01 mph. The margin of victory was 65-hundredths of a second.
"Our goal when we started our new engine program after Pomona was to compete for a Winston championship," said Coughlin. "Although we don't have that opportunity now, what we've learned by working with the small-block engines is information that can be transferred to our big-block program.
"I really feel that racing for so long in the sportsman categories has helped my driving and my ability to focus. We needed it all against Bobby (Panella). We got him on e.t. but he got us on mph. Any time you race that Panella team you know they're going to be tough, that's for sure."
Panella was racing in his fifth final round of the season, and even though he fell short of victory today, his performance this weekend moved him closer to a third Winston Pro Stock Truck title.
"It feels good knowing this Chevy S-10 is running so consistently," said Panella. "Sometimes we have trouble doing that, but our guys work hard and they're doing a great job. This race, and Indy were a turning point for us last year, so I'd like to think we're on a roll now, and even if we don't win any more races, if we can keep doing what we did today, they're going to be hard pressed to pass us."
With three Pro Stock Truck races left on the schedule Panella leads the standings with 947 points. Randy Daniels is in second place with 863 points, Greg Stanfield is third with 818, Jeff Gracia is fourth with 681 and Todd Patterson is fifth with 589. Mike Coughlin moves all the way up from ninth place to sixth with 537 points.
By advancing to the finals of Top Fuel for the third consecutive race, Team Chevrolet driver Larry Dixon held onto a narrow advantage in the championship chase over Kenny Bernstein. Bernstein ended Dixon's two-race winning streak in a side-by-side final-round showdown between the two points leaders. Dixon, who was the No. 1 qualifier coming into final eliminations, took a slim starting line advantage, but couldn't hold off Bernstein who crossed the finish line in 4.682 seconds at 308.78 mph. Dixon followed with a 4.753 e.t. at 304.05 mph.
In Funny Car, No. 2 qualifier Ron Capps led the Chevy Camaro division of the red-bowtie brigade, advancing to round three before losing to eventual race winner Gary Densham.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. drove his Pro Stock Chevy Cavalier to the semifinals before losing to Mark Pawuk. George Marnell was the race winner in a Grand Am.
The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the Inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., on September 27 - 30. <pre> Pro Stock Truck Race Winner: Mike Coughlin (Chevy S-10) 7.446ET/181.79MPH Pro Stock Truck Runner-Up: Bob Panella (S-10) 7.447ET/182.01MPH Chevy Pro Stock semifinalists: M. Coughlin, Bob Panella, Taylor Lastor Pro Stock Truck Top Qualifier: Mike Coughlin (Chevy S-10) 7.422ET/181.81MPH (track record elapsed time and speed)
Pro Stock Truck Top 10: 1. Bob Panella (S-10), 947; 2. Randy Daniels (S-10), 863; 3. Greg Stanfield (S-10), 818; 4. Jeff Gracia (Sonoma), 681; 5. Todd Patterson (Dodge), 589; 6. Mike Coughlin (S-10), 537; 7. Scott Perin (S-10), 522; 8. Taylor Lastor (S-10), 516; 9. Don Smith (S-10), 515; 10. Victor Cagnazzi (S-10), 453.
Pro Stock Race Winner: George Marnell (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.974ET/198.12MPH Pro Stock Runner-Up: Mark Pawuk (Grand Am) 6.950ET/198.00MPH Chevy Pro Stock semifinalists: Jeg Coughlin Jr. Pro Stock Top Qualifier: Jim Yates (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.883ET/199.29MPK Pro Stock Top 10: 1. Warren Johnson (Grand Am), 1,272; 2. Jim Yates (Grand Am), 1,196; 3. Bruce Allen (Grand Am), 1,070; 4. Mike Edwards (Cavalier), 1065; 5. Jeg Coughlin (Cavalier), 1055; 6. Mark Pawuk (Grand Am), 1047; 7. Mark Osborne (Dodge), 1023; 8. Ron Krisher (Cavalier), 997; 9. Kurt Johnson (Cavalier), 982; 10. Brad Jeter (Grand Am), 784.
Funny Car Winner: Gary Densham (Mustang) 5.070ET/290.01MPH Funny Car Runner-Up: John Force (Mustang) 5.111ET/283.73MPH Chevy Funny Car semifinalists: Ron Capps Funny Car Top Qualifier: John Force (Mustang) 4.824ET(track record)/302.82MPH Funny Car Top 10: 1. John Force (Mustang), 1,584; 2. Whit Bazemore (Firebird), 1,299; 3. Del Worsham (Firebird), 1,205; 4. Ron Capps (Camaro), 1,204; 5. Tony Pedregon (Mustang), 1,128; 6. Bruce Sarver (Firebird), 1,081; 7. Frank Pedregon (Firebird), 908; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Camaro), 898; 9. Gary Densham (Mustang), 885; 10. Dean Skuza (Dodge), 884.
Top Fuel Winner: Kenny Bernstein 4.682ET/308.78MPH Top Fuel Runner-Up: Larry Dixon 4.753ET/304.05MPH Team Chevy Top Fuel semifinalist: Larry Dixon Top Fuel Top Qualifier: Larry Dixon 4.581ET/309.70MPH Top Fuel Top 10: 1. Larry Dixon, 1,625; 2. Kenny Bernstein, 1,598; 3. Mike Dunn, 1,271; 4. Doug Kalitta, 1,263; 5. Gary Scelzi, 1,261; 6. Darrell Russell, 1,199; 7. Doug Herbert, 1,022; 8. Tony Schumacher, 947; 9. David Grubnic, 791; 10. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 643.