ATCO, N.J. — Third-generation racer T.J. Coughlin claimed the biggest payday of his young career when he won $25,000 first prize in Sunday’s AA Auto Salvage North East Four Day Bracket Championships presented by JEGS Mail Order at Atco Dragway.
Driving his JEGS.com dragster, Coughlin outlasted some of the toughest sportsman racers in the country to claim the win. In the decisive final round, Coughlin stopped Scott Bodmer of Beallsville, Md., as he left with a nearly perfect .005-second reaction time and then ran right on his dial-in time of 7.53 seconds for the win.
“That was a much-needed victory,” an elated Coughlin said. “Any win is good, but $25,000 will help pay a lot of bills. It felt really good to turn on the win light in that final round. When you come this far, you always want to be able to close the deal.”
In terms of prestige and degree of difficulty, Coughlin’s latest victory compares favorably to his landmark win in the Super Comp class at last year’s NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. It also helps cement his credentials as one of the nation’s best up-and-coming young drag racers.
In addition to his final round win over Bodmer, Coughlin also had to face a number of other tough opponents, including past NHRA Super Gas world champion Dan Northrop, recent Thunder Valley Nationals winner Shane Carr and successful second-generation racer Jason Folk.
“I won Super Comp at Indy, and that was awesome, but this is a different kind of win,” Coughlin said. “Ever since I started racing, I’ve wanted to win one of these big bracket races just because they are so hard to win. The feeling of accomplishment is so great. I owe a lot of thanks to my uncle Jeg, his fiancй Samantha [Kenny], and to Tony Collier for helping me get the car dialed-in this weekend.
“I also own a big thanks to [fellow racer] Gary Williams. We were having problems with our starter, and Gary worked on it every round so I could keep going.”
Coughlin dedicated the victory to his grandfather, Bob Reeder, who passed away recently.
“I really wanted to win a race for him,” Coughlin said, “and I can’t think of a better way to honor him.”
In addition to his Sunday victory, Coughlin also had several other strong finishes during the four-day race, including a round-five finish on Thursday.
Coughlin’s uncle, five-time NHRA World champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., also competed in the event, turning in several late-round finishes, including a semifinal showing on Sunday.
“We were both still in the running late in the day on Sunday,” T.J. said. “It would have been great to race Uncle Jeg in the final, but we came up just short. Still, we had a great weekend. I can’t wait to get back out there and do it all over again.”