It surprised many when Jeg Coughlin Jr. returned from a year's sabbatical and promptly raced his brand-new JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to a runner-up finish at the season-opening race in Pomona earlier this year. Not only had Coughlin been away from the professional ranks for a year, but he'd elected to start a new racing program from the ground-up.
"For a new team, I think we did well. We're not fighting for the championship this time through, which is a bit of a disappointment, but to make the Countdown field and have a respectable finish in the points in our first year is pretty darn good."
About the only people not surprised with Coughlin's strong start, aside from the veteran crewmen in JEGS uniforms, were the drag racing historians, who know Coughlin is one of the most prolific drag racers in Pomona track history.
Since turning professional at the end of 1997, Coughlin has won six national events at the venerable old quarter-mile, and has an equal number of runner-up results. He won twice in 1999, and again in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007. He came in second place two times in 1998, and one time each in 2000, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
"My love affair with the Fairgrounds started back in 1992 when I clinched the Super Gas championship," Coughlin said. "Back then they used to parade the Sportsman champs down the return road at Pomona and the response we got from the fans really made a mark on my heart. They appreciated what we had accomplished and were knowledgeable enough to know what it took to get it done. I've been hooked on Pomona ever since. It's been 20 years but I still feel the exact same way.
"It's an electric atmosphere at both races. The Winternationals are fun because the year is so full of promise and everyone is dreaming big. All the new teams are there with new cars and new paint jobs. Then you get to the Finals and the battles for the various championships are at their peak. It's never boring at Pomona."
Coughlin will actually have two chances to visit Pomona's victory circle this time through as in addition to his Pro Stock endeavors, he'll be competing in his JEGS.com Super Comp dragster. Last year, Coughlin drove the rail to a win in nearby Fontana, Calif., becoming the first drag racer in history with victories in six different eliminator categories -- Pro Stock, Competition Eliminator, Top Dragster, Super Gas, Super Stock and Super Comp.
"We've had some success with the dragster and I'm looking forward to running it again this weekend," Coughlin said. "Super Comp is always a tough category but we'll give it all we got and see what happens."