In 2018, Jeg Coughlin Jr finished second in NHRA’s Mello Yello Pro Stock competition, behind only champion Tanner Gray. That result meant Coughlin was the highest ranked competitor in the 2019 18-race campaign when Gray departed, but the five-time Pro Stock champion finished the regular season after the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in an uncharacteristic eighth place.
A semifinal result in the first of six playoff races, held at Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Penn. gave Coughlin a boost as he gained two spots to hold sixth place coming into this coming weekend’s second contest at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, in sight of St. Louis, Mo. Just an achievable 95 points out of the lead, the driver of the bright yellow JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro knows it’s vital to his title hopes to have a good weekend under the St. Louis arch.
“We feel like we’re arriving in St. Louis with a lot of momentum,” the 81-time national event winner said. “We had a great start to the playoffs in Reading. The car was running very well, and if not for the smallest of miscues in the semifinals where we went red by -.002 seconds, we would have had a great chance at taking the trophy home.” Known for his excellent reaction times, Coughlin anticipated the Christmas Tree lights and suffered for it.
Coughlin’s success at the St. Louis track speaks volumes. He’s taken the Wally winner’s trophy twice in Pro Stock – 2002 and 2009 – and was runner-up in the class three times, in 1998, 2007 and 2010. Last year he was the No. 1 qualifier for this playoff race. Coughlin owns trophies from Super Stock Lucas Oil competition in 1997 and 2003, and took the top prize in 2010 while racing in the Top Dragster class.
“There’s no reason to think we won’t be strong again this weekend, considering how well we ran in Reading. Some changes were made before that race and everything we hoped would happen appears to be happening now. We’re charged up to drop the clutch Friday and see how we stack up,” Coughlin said.
Last year Coughlin earned his runner-up finish in the final Pro Stock accountings with three victories in five final-round appearances. He earned six No. 1 qualifiers in that effort. During the 2019 campaign, Coughlin collected the winner’s trophy in Phoenix and was low qualifier in the final race of the tough Western Swing, at Seattle.
His mind is on St. Louis and duplicating his success at this mid-country track. “We’ve enjoyed some great times and had some big runs in St. Louis. Any time you go to a track where you’ve won races in the past, it gives you an extra dose of confidence. It’s a really fun track, a Midwest track, so we know there will be a bunch of JEGS fans and customers cheering for us. That’s exciting.”
Coughlin knows it’s crunch time with only five races remaining on the 2019 calendar and a championship up for grabs. “It’s a time of the year where you have to be aggressive and I have every confidence in the Elite Motorsports crew. There’s no point in being conservative, especially when you’re not in the lead. I feel strongly that we will challenge for another race win, [even though] there are some great drivers and teams ahead of us.”
Reading winner Jason Line leads his KB Racing squadmate Bo Butner by 39 points, while Elite’s Alex Laughlin and Erica Enders are third and fourth, Matt Hartford holds fifth place points, Coughlin is sixth, followed by Deric Kramer, Greg Anderson, Chris McGaha and Val Smeland.