POMONA, Calif. — Jeg Coughlin Jr. might have a new car, new engine and a new team, but his reputation as the toughest out in the NHRA is exactly the same as before he took a one-year hiatus.
Coughlin and the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger finished runner-up to Greg Anderson on Sunday at the season opening NHRA Winternationals, his first race back following a year away from the pro ranks.
“I did feel like I drove well this weekend,” Coughlin said. “But the team I have behind me gives me a lot of confidence. That’s worth a lot behind the wheel.”
Anderson left second but had enough muscle to work around Coughlin and turn on the win light in the final. Anderson crossed the finish line in 6.549 seconds at 210.87 mph, while Coughlin finished in 6.586 seconds at 209.62 mph.
Coughlin, who was the No. 14 qualifier, beat Ronnie Humphrey, Vincent Nobile and Mike Edwards on his march to the finals against Anderson.
“Coming into the day, we feel like we had the performance to be a dark horse,” Coughlin said. “We hadn’t quite hit our stride through the first three rounds of qualifying, and when we came out with that 6.58 (second pass) with that first run, we weren’t far off from the quickest guy. We felt like we could peck away it and put ourselves in position to go a few more rounds and maybe win a race today.”
Coughlin opened the day with an upset, hole shot victory over No. 3 qualifier Ronnie Humphrey. Coughlin had a .021-second reaction time, which was a huge margin over Humphrey’s .059. With that extra time in his pocket, Coughlin turned a 6.581 second pass at 210.47 mph into a winner despite Humphrey running a 6.569 at 211.99 mph.
That was followed by a tight victory over Nobile. Coughlin was second off the line there, but ran a 6.590 at 209.85 mph to hit the stripe ahead of Nobile, who crossed in 6.609 at 209.43 mph. Coughlin advanced to the finals after Edwards jumped the gun by minus-.004 seconds and fouled out. Coughlin’s pass that round was a 6.615 at 209.30 mph.
“We struggled in Round 2 and Round 3 for varying reasons, but still moved on,” Coughlin said. “This is just a taste of what’s coming for this team. Roy Simmons and Nick Ferri are going to continue to work hard on the tune-up and the horsepower.
“With the limited data we had going into this race, I’m so proud of what this group accomplished this weekend. I thank my Pop (Jeg Sr.) for being a ringleader this weekend.
“I’m about as fired up as I get at a race I didn’t win.”
Coughlin and the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger team will pack up and head to Phoenix for the Feb. 17-19 NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.