POMONA, Calif. - Despite all of his obvious Midwestern traits, this laid-back Ohio racer really enjoys going California cruisin' in his yellow and black Olds. In fact, Jeg Coughlin's trips to Southern California were so much fun...
POMONA, Calif. - Despite all of his obvious Midwestern traits, this laid-back Ohio racer really enjoys going California cruisin' in his yellow and black Olds. In fact, Jeg Coughlin's trips to Southern California were so much fun in 1999, that he can't wait to do it all over again. Coughlin, one of four brothers in a Columbus, Ohio-based family that's heavily involved in NHRA championship drag racing, will attempt to win his third straight Pro Stock title at Pomona Raceway, Feb. 3-6, at the 40th annual AutoZone Winternationals. Coughlin claimed both Pomona victories last season, two of five wins he had during the season en route to his second consecutive second place NHRA Winston points finish.
"We'd like to make it three in a row," said Coughlin, who will drive his familiar Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass at the $1.7 million race, first of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series for the 2000 season.
"We've been to the last three finals there so I think we've got a good handle on the track," he added. "Our off-season testing went well. We're coming into Pomona with the same game plan as we had last November. If we can be fortunate enough to avoid mistakes, I think we'll be right there." His confidence stems from a stellar season in '99. Not only was he a five-time national event winner, but Coughlin also claimed the $50,000 Winston Showdown victory, as well as the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, also worth $50,000. If not for three straight DNQ's midway in the year, Coughlin may have celebrated his first championship last year. Coughlin is well aware of that fact. He says his team learned a lot from the '99 campaign. "We learned the importance of focus, maintenance and communication," Coughlin said. "I think you need those three factors working for you no matter what you do. During the second-half of the season we gained a lot of consistency. We're going to try to maintain that level throughout this new season. If we can do that, I think we'll certainly be a top title threat." It's no secret that the championship he seeks is one of the toughest to earn in any of NHRA's five professional categories. With nearly 50 entries attempting to qualify for 16 spots at each event, the competition is cut-throat at best. Coughlin knows well the importance of qualifying. "That's one of my main goals this season, to make the quick 16 at every event," Coughlin said. "I've never done that before. It's going to be tough with more than 28 cars having a legitimate chance of making each race. If we can accomplish that goal, I think our plan for the season will fall in line."
Defending Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson is still the measuring stick for all other competitors, with his national record-owning GM Goodwrench Pontiac Firebird setting the pace. Coughlin expects records to fall and plenty of new contenders to emerge for the championship, himself included. "I think we're going to see 6.70s and speeds over 203 miles per hour," Coughlin predicted. "I think all existing records will be bettered. Pre-season testing has already proved that. Kurt Johnson and Ron Krisher both ran in the 6.70s, so it can be done. I think the competition is going to be closer than ever, with guys like Richie Stevens, Jim Yates and Kurt Johnson in the hunt. It's going to be a lot of fun."