Columbus: Coughlin's engine program moving into high gear

HEBRON, Ohio - Jeg Coughlin Jr. might be the youngest of the four Coughlin brothers, but surprisingly he has the biggest expectations to meet. The 31-year-old hometown favorite will try and win for the first time in nearly a year as he competes...

HEBRON, Ohio - Jeg Coughlin Jr. might be the youngest of the four Coughlin brothers, but surprisingly he has the biggest expectations to meet.

The 31-year-old hometown favorite will try and win for the first time in nearly a year as he competes in the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing, June 13-16, at National Trail Raceway. Larry Dixon, John Force, Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners of the $1.9 million race, the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

After a remarkable 2000 season where Coughlin streaked out to the points lead from the season-opener and never looked back until he was crowned series champ, he struggled through 2001 by his standards as he finished fifth in the Pro Stock standings, his lowest seeding since he began racing full-time. One of the reasons for the struggles was the fact that the Coughlin family had decided to take their engine program in-house and were overcoming some of the early obstacles the program encountered.

"In the beginning we had a little bit of a problem keeping stuff together, but that was some learning curves that we went through," said Coughlin, whose 23 career victories ties him for fifth all-time in Pro Stock. "The winter was our first opportunity to sit back and not be rushed to have something done by the end of the week and need to fly a motor to a race track. Our goal this year was to not have to fly a motor to the track at all. We have enough pieces, and we have enough talent to have a nice rotation for both cars. So far it has been really smooth, minus the DNQ (did not qualify) at the season-opener in Pomona (Calif.)."

Pro Stock is considered by many the most competitive form of racing in all of motorsports. It is a statement that can be backed up by the fact that there have been nine different winners in the first 10 events. Coughlin has been able to remain among the leaders in the standings despite not visiting the winner's circle in 2002.

"It's pretty wild right now with only three guys that have qualified for every race so far," said Coughlin. "We're in striking distance right now, but we're a round away from being in ninth, and a round from being in third. The pack is extremely tight right now.

Consistency and two runner-up finishes has helped Coughlin maintain his place in the standings, but a victory is what every driver goes to the track for. Nothing would please Coughlin more than to snag the win in Ohio.

"We have done all our growing up in Columbus and brothers and I all got our NHRA license at National Trail Raceway," said Coughlin. "Our company is based there and we give every one of our 350-plus associates the opportunity to come to the races one of the four days. To be able to have them physically there throughout the weekend makes it real special with a hometown crowd. When you do well in front of everyone you know, it makes it that much more rewarding."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , John Force