Winning one more on pending champ Coughlin's mind
Pomona, pre-race: Pending Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. has spent his entire life around the sport of drag racing. That's the main reason the son of drag racing pioneer Jeg Coughlin Sr. wants to make absolutely sure he enjoys every second of this weekend's season-ending 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.
A breath away from successfully defending his 2007 title, the 38-year-old Coughlin knows that moments like these are rare, even for someone who already has four championships and 54 national event victories to his credit.
"Our work isn't finished this year because we don't just want to qualify (which would clinch the title), we want to end the year with a win," Coughlin said. "At the same time, this is a very unique opportunity to race together as a team, enjoy all the people that made this season so special, and just drag race and have some fun."
The only racer mathematically alive in the championship chase is Greg Anderson, who would need to qualify sixth or higher, set a national elapsed time record, win the race, and have Coughlin fail to qualify for the event to take the title away. Setting a national record might be the toughest task of all as the current track record at Pomona is almost a tenth of a second slower than the national mark, a huge margin in drag racing.
"It's looking good for us but we've seen goofy things happen over the years so we're not letting up," Coughlin said. "You know, Pomona has some very special memories for me. I've clinched a few titles there but I've also lost a few by the narrowest of margins. In 1997, the Super Stock and Competition Eliminator national championships slipped through my fingers at that race and it was very crushing at the time.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for the racers in this class. It's so hard to win races these days. It's hard just to win individual rounds. To race an entire season and finish ahead of guys like Greg Anderson, my teammate Dave Connolly, Kurt Johnson, Allen Johnson, Warren Johnson, Jason Line, and all the others, makes winning a championship exceptionally special.
"Our team owner, Victor Cagnazzi, is very deserving of all the accolades we've received as a team. It was his vision and his leadership that got us to this point. He did it the right way with the right people in place and if we're lucky enough to hold on to the lead then that big Wally trophy will be going right back to Mooresville (N.C.) to his office."
Should Coughlin clinch his fourth Pro Stock title (to go with his 1992 Super Gas crown), he will tie Lee Shepherd for third place in the category and trail only Bob Glidden (10 world titles) and Warren Johnson (six titles) in the history books. He will also move into a tie for eighth place on the all-time champions list alongside legends Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, Gary Scelzi, and Shepherd.
"Call me superstitious but I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch," Coughlin said. "I'm just excited to race my JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt again, especially coming off a big win in Vegas, and having some fun with my family and friends. We'll celebrate at the appropriate time, should that time arrive for us."
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