Topeka Jeg Coughlin, Jr. Preview Pro Stock

'98 NHRA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR COUGHLIN FIGHTING OFF SOPHOMORE JINX TOPEKA, Kan. - For all of the success Jeg Coughlin Jr. has enjoyed during his sophomore season behind the wheel of his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass, there also has...

'98 NHRA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR COUGHLIN FIGHTING OFF SOPHOMORE JINX TOPEKA, Kan. - For all of the success Jeg Coughlin Jr. has enjoyed during his sophomore season behind the wheel of his Jeg's Mail Order Oldsmobile Cutlass, there also has been just a hint of the sophomore blues. For Coughlin, the 1998 NHRA Winston Rookie of the Year, the dreaded second-year slump lasted for about three races. However, miscues in those events may be just enough to keep this stellar Pro Stock performer away from his ultimate goal: winning an NHRA Winston championship. Coughlin's achievements this season have been impressive. He's claimed four national event victories and earned over $100,000 in bonus cash by winning the inaugural Winston Showdown and the Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel. Despite the good times, he posted DNQs (did not qualify) at three straight events: Dallas, Richmond, Va., and Atlanta. In those events, Coughlin's team missed the setup on his race car and he ultimately fell several spots in the competitive Winston points chase. After dropping as far as eighth in the standings, Coughlin fought hard to rebound and now sits third overall, a distant 326 behind leader Warren Johnson. Another of his rivals, Kurt Johnson, is second in the standings, 116 in front of Coughlin. Coughlin, from Columbus, Ohio, will try to improve on his points position with a victory at the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Sept. 30-Oct. 3 at Heartland Park Topeka. The $1.7 million race is the 18th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "This is the time of the season when you start to look back at the season and think of all the mistakes you made along the way and wonder where you would be without them," Coughlin said. "Even with our stumbles this season we're still in good shape. We still have a mathematical shot at the championship and we won't give up until there's no possibility for us to win." After opening the season with a victory at Pomona, Calif., Coughlin spent most of the spring trying to find a consistent setup. He came on strong this summer, with victories at Denver, Brainerd, Minn. and most recently at Reading, Pa. "We've been running really consistently lately and the car has responded well to all of the changes we've been making to it," Coughlin said. "I think we've got a good handle on what the car wants and we've been able to fine-tune it ." Coughlin says he feels like his team is peaking at the right time. "Hopefully we can continue to build on the momentum," Coughlin said. "I can't say enough about our team. Everyone in our program contributes to any kind of success we enjoy. Winning at Reading speaks highly of our team and our capabilities. I think we found a good baseline setup for the fast tracks we're going to encounter during the final five races of the season." Coughlin feels especially confident about his chances heading into Heartland Park Topeka, where he was a runner-up last season. This time out, he hopes to come away with a victory. "I think we'll be ready for Topeka," Coughlin said. "That place was good to us last year. We qualified well and just missed getting a win. I'm looking forward to getting back there and working to cut into some more of Warren's lead in the Winston point standings. Our program has been gaining strength. The guys on our team work together and feed off each other's energy. With every win our team gets stronger and gains more knowledge." Pawuk makes noise: Mark Pawuk, driver of the Summit Racing Pontiac Firebird, continued to be one of the hottest Pro Stock drivers, posting a runner-up finish at the recent NHRA event in Reading, Pa. It was the first final round appearance for Pawuk since Reading '95. His effort moved him into sixth in Winston points, his best position since finishing sixth overall in the '95 standings. "Our tendency over the past few years has been to fall off in the last third of the season," said Pawuk, who finished 10th in the points chase last year. "This year we're accelerating our program. We're running better, we're running consistent, we're going more rounds and I'm driving better. It was a great effort by the whole group at Reading. Everything is coming together for this young team and I think you'll see more of this Summit Pontiac Firebird in the future."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson