POMONA, Calif., Nov. 4, 2007 - The 2007 NHRA POWERade season came to a close today at the 43rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway with Chevrolet driver's champions crowned in the Pro Stock and Funny Car categories. Team Chevy's...
POMONA, Calif., Nov. 4, 2007 - The 2007 NHRA POWERade season came to a close today at the 43rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway with Chevrolet driver's champions crowned in the Pro Stock and Funny Car categories.
Team Chevy's Jeg Coughlin Jr. captured his fourth victory of the year, and gave Chevrolet its first NHRA Pro Stock championship since he last won the title in 2002 (his first championship was in 2000). Coughlin came into this weekend's event in second place, and 34 points behind Greg Anderson in the POWERade standings. With Coughlin advancing past round two of eliminations, and Anderson losing in round one, the 37-year-old Ohio native was able to overcome the deficit to become the 2007 champion.
"All year we've been saying that it would come down to one run," Coughlin said. "That's exactly what happened today. Even with all of the pressure these past few weeks with the Countdown, I've been feeling great. I love Pomona and we couldn't be happier than to be crowned the first champion under the new POWERade Countdown to the Championship format.
"It's incredible how it all fell into place. The pressure was enormous for all of us and I think my previous experience might have really helped me there. Last year I only ran three Pro Stock events at the end of the season. The rest of the time I was running a bunch of those high-dollar bracket races and those things are so intense. That's kind of what it felt like these past two races. This is such a charge. To be able to give Victor and Brita (Cagnazzi) their first championship means a lot to me. They had a plan to put together a race team capable of winning a championship and through a lot of perseverance and hard work, they got it done."
Coughlin entered today's eliminator with his Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt qualified in the No. 4 position. He defeated Larry Morgan in round one with a 6.650 e.t. at 207.34 mph, Richie Stevens in round two (which clinched the POWERade championship) with a 6.646 second run at 207.88 mph, and Mike Edwards in round three with a 6.654 second run at 207.88 mph. In the finals against Justin Humphreys, the Knoll Gas & Energy Pontiac launched first with a blistering .025 reaction. But Coughlin's Chevrolet ran him down and crossed the finish line with low e.t. of the meet at 6.638 seconds. Humphreys' Pontiac followed in 6.662 seconds at 207.27 mph. The margin of victory for Coughlin's Chevrolet was .007 of a second.
"What an event this Countdown put us all through," Coughlin said. "It was exciting. The end result obviously for us was spectacular, but today here at Pomona, my favorite racetrack on the circuit, I couldn't be more proud of my Cagnazzi Racing team, and the Torco Racing Fuels team with Dave Connolly, and everybody with the Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt. It performed flawlessly all weekend and put me in a position to hoist the trophy for winning the race, and the most coveted one of all, the POWERade Pro Stock championship."
By winning the 2007 NHRA POWERade championship, Coughlin joins Bob Glidden, Warren Johnson, Lee Shepherd, Greg Anderson and Darrell Alderman as the only Pro Stock drivers in the history of the sport to win three or more titles.
"Everybody on this race team does a fabulous job on this Chevy Cobalt," Coughlin said. "From the guys here at the racetrack to everyone back in North Carolina at our engine shop, you couldn't ask for a better group to work with. We have awesome GM horsepower in this racecar and the guys do an incredible job. Thanks to Victor Cagnazzi for giving me such an awesome Pro Stock car to compete in.
"Like any racer that wins a championship, I have a fantastic team behind me. Roy Simmons, my crew chief, my father Jeg Sr., the crew guys, the boys building the motors back at the shop, the chassis department, they all share in this moment. This is for all of us."
"Thank God for blessing us this year, over and over again," said team-owner Victor Cagnazzi. "The team worked hard, we tested a lot this year and we prepared ourselves to get to this point. I'm proud of this entire race team, everybody back at the shop, and I'm just excited."
For Coughlin, it was his 38th career victory as an NHRA Pro Stock driver, his fourth win at the NHRA Finals and his sixth victory at Auto Club Raceway. It was also the 60th career final-round appearance and the eighth this season for the Chevy Cobalt driver.
Justin Humphreys advanced to his first career final-round appearance by defeating Greg Anderson in round one with a 6.669 second run at 207.18 mph, Allen Johnson in round two with a 6.647 e.t. at 207.50 mph and Tom Hammonds in round three with a 6.674 second run at 206.70 mph.
"We struggled early in the season and things have been getting better and better," Humphreys said. "We couldn't find a better place to go to our first final round than here at Pomona. We turned out to be a player in the Countdown even though we weren't in the Countdown. To be a player and take out two of the Countdown guys during the race, and almost a third, is pretty exciting and keeps us looking forward to '08. Our initial goal this year was to come out and get in the show four or five times - we were able to do that pretty quick. Hopefully we can come out next year and get a few wins."
Although Greg Anderson came into the race leading the POWERade standings and with an excellent opportunity to win his fourth POWERade championship, his title hopes were dashed early in eliminations when he fell in round one to Humphreys. With eight national-event victories this year the Summit Racing Pontiac driver will end the season in second place in the Pro Stock standings for his sixth consecutive top-three finish.
"I can't sit here and whine," Anderson said. "We had another great season and I've got a fantastic race team here. I feel proud to just be a part of it and to be able to work for a man like Ken Black. We've had such great success over the past six years that you get spoiled. The normal reaction is to want to kick stones and get down on yourself, but in reality, you have to keep things in perspective and be appreciative for what you have. We have a great race team and we'll come back next year to Pomona and be ready to go at it again. I dropped the ball here today but I know I'm surrounded by a great team. We'll bounce back because all the pieces and parts are in place for another great season in 2008."
Chevy Impala SS Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon clinched his second POWERade championship today at Auto Club Raceway. Pedregon entered this weekend's event with a wide points margin over his closest competitors in the standings, Gary Scelzi and Robert Hight, and then held on to capture his second driver's title despite a round-one loss to Jeff Arend. The Q Racing Chevy finished out the year with four victories and five final-round appearances with three of those wins coming during the last seven races of the season.
"I am born and raised in Southern California," Pedregon said. "I had a lot of people coming up to me in the pits from all over to see one of their own pull it off. I'm a little emotional but I see guys like Don Prudhomme, Dale Armstrong, and my good friend and partner Larry Minor and Stan Herzog. I want you to know I'm a second generation racer and I'm no different from you. I wanted to do this because my dad did it, and I wanted to go fast, and now it's become a lot more that."