Jeg Coughlin has already qualified to defend his NHRA POWERade world championship title in the Countdown to 1. However, he hopes his final points position in Pro Stock's top 10 will change with a strong performance at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the world's most prestigious drag race.
Coughlin hopes an Indy victory will help him move into second place in the final regular-season points standings, knowing from experience that every point will be extremely valuable when the top 10 Pro Stock teams gear up for the six-race playoff run in the Countdown to 1 that begins Sept. 11-14 at zMax Dragway @ Concord near Charlotte.
When the Countdown to 1 begins, points totals will be reset for all playoff competitors with a breakdown that includes a 30-point lead for the first-place racer (2,090 points) over second place (2,060), followed by deductions of 10 points each for racers in third (2,050) through 10th (1,980).
A victory two weeks ago in Reading has Coughlin riding a wave of momentum into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at historic O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, Aug. 27-Sept. 1, the final race in the 18-event Countdown to 10, NHRA's regular season. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the traditional Labor Day weekend classic.
"We've been flirting with a win now for a while, and it feels wonderful to get it done," said Coughlin of his second victory of the season and 40th overall. "The main thing is that we want to carry momentum into Indy and then the playoffs, and there's no better way to build up momentum than to go out there and turn on the win light. The closer we are to the No. 1 spot when the playoffs start, the better it will be. We moved up to third with our Reading win, and we could mathematically get as high as second in Indy, so that's what we'll try to do. We've been talking about getting that look back in our eye, and I think we did that a little bit [in Reading]."
Coughlin is a two-time winner of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Pro Stock, and he has won the race in Super Gas. He is well aware of the race's position as the single greatest drag racing event in the world.
"Indy's been known as the granddaddy of them all and has been the biggest event on the NHRA tour for more than 50 years," Coughlin said. "To have an Indy win under your belt is very special. We have been fortunate to have had a lot of success at Indy as a family over the years, and I look forward to doing what I can to continue that tradition this season. As a family, our overall win record there is pretty darn stout. For me, it's a trophy that ranks right up there with the POWERade championship trophy for sure."
In the world of Pro Stock, a few drivers have dominated the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, including nine-time winner Bob Glidden, six-time winner Warren Johnson, and, most recently, five-time winner Greg Anderson. In fact, only seven drivers among the more than 30 entrants are former event winners. Coughlin certainly wants to add to his two victories there.
"Indy is the race where you must have all your i's dotted and t's crossed going in there, and as a result of that, there have been quite a few multiple-time winners," he said. "Everybody comes to Indy with their guns loaded as heavy as they can from a chassis and engine standpoint as well as from a mental standpoint. It's just a marathon race with an extra day of racing, and as a driver, you have to be prepared for that."
The Jegs.com Chevy Cobalt driver put on a dominant driving display during last year's two-race Countdown to 1 to claim his third Pro Stock world championship. However, he knows with six races and so many strong cars in the mix, repeating his championship effort will take a brand-new focus and plenty of good old-fashioned teamwork.
For Coughlin, his championship strategy begins in Indy.
"We're treating Indy as the first race of the Countdown [to 1]," Coughlin said. "It's the biggest race of the year, and we want to win Indy. We're going into that race as best prepared as we can. We've got to get momentum on our side and never look back. There are so many great teams this year that I don't think anyone is going to run away with [the championship] in a six-race stretch once [the Countdown to 1] begins. We think it's going to take three wins in the last six races to win the POWERade championship. It's going to be a lot of fun. There'll be a lot of holeshot wins and some exciting racing."
While Coughlin hopes to move to second overall in the Countdown to 1, three drivers will be battling in Indy with hopes of making the Countdown to 1. Ron Krisher, Greg Stanfield, and Johnson will be competing for the final two open positions in the top 10 points order. Krisher and Stanfield enter the race in ninth and 10th, respectively, and Johnson sits 72 points out in 11th.
In addition to Coughlin and Anderson, others who have secured their spots in the Countdown to 1 and are among the favorites to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals include two-time Indy winner Kurt Johnson, defending Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner and Coughlin teammate Dave Connolly, Jason Line, Allen Johnson, 1998 Indy winner Mike Edwards, and V. Gaines.