ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Understandably, Jeg Coughlin wants to savor the moment. It's been two decades since an NHRA Pro Stock driver has got off to such a fast start, winning races all most at will. The last time it happened was 1980, when the late...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Understandably, Jeg Coughlin wants to savor the moment. It's been two decades since an NHRA Pro Stock driver has got off to such a fast start, winning races all most at will. The last time it happened was 1980, when the late Lee Shepherd won six of the first seven events. Through six races this season, Coughlin's Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile has been unstoppable, winning at every stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series, except Gainesville, Fla. He's five for six, nearly matching Shepherd's storied mark.
While the road to his first NHRA Winston championship seems assured at this point, Coughlin isn't making a down payment for a new cabinet to house the trophy just yet.
He's well aware that there's still plenty of races remaining in the 2000 season. Count 'em: 16. He knows that in that amount of time, a lot can change. Especially in the Pro Stock category, arguably the most competitive in NHRA.
"The car is working great and the combination we have now is pretty awesome," said Coughlin, who holds a 211 point lead over five-time and defending series champ Warren Johnson. "We just need to keep doing our job and let the championship points fall where they may."
His victory parade started in Pomona, Calif. in February, before moving on to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston and most recently, Richmond, Va. With his victory in the Old Dominion state, Coughlin notched his 15th career win.
Coughlin, who has earned victories in four different NHRA categories, will try to improve on his winning ways at the 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions, May 18-21, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. The $1.9 million race is the eighth of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
A winner here in 1998, Coughlin lost in the semifinals at this event one year ago to eventual winner Richie Stevens.
In addition, Coughlin will attempt to defend his Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel victory. The Columbus, Ohio driver won the special event here last year, pocketing a $50,000 bonus in the process. The Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel showcases the eight quickest Pro Stock qualifiers from the last year. Coughlin is qualified No. 2 for the special event. "Englishtown has always been good to our team," Coughlin said. "We seem to have a pretty good setup for that track. It's also one of the most important events for Pro Stock racers, with the program that Holley puts on for us each year."
Other top drivers in the category who will be looking to end Coughlin's hot streak include the event's defending winner Stevens, along with hometown favorite, Tom Martino, of nearby Farmingdale, N.J. Four-time Englishtown winner Johnson, who holds track records for time (6.875 seconds) and speed (201.58 mph) along with his son, Kurt, will also be among the favorites. Johnson hasn't won this event since 1993.
YATES GAINS GOUND IN POINTS: Thanks to back-to-back final round appearances, Jim Yates has moved into third place in the NHRA Winston point standings.
The Alexandria, Va. driver lost to Coughlin in finals at Houston Raceway Park and Virginia Motorsports Park. Yates' most recent victory came last season in Sonoma, Calif.
"All I can say is that we've been better than everyone else over the last month but Jeg," said Yates, the Pro Stock series champ in 1996 and 1997. "If we go to the finals enough times we're going to win some races. The guys are doing a great job. We just have to focus on our program and figure out how to pick up a thousandth of a second here and a thousandth of a second there. Eventually, we're going to get there."