Coughlin Hopes To Secure Fifth Pro Stock Title
POMONA, Calif. — Jeg Coughlin isn’t exactly sure what sparked his love affair with Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, but for an Ohio driver to have had as much success as he’s had at the famed Southern California drag strip located just east of downtown Los Angeles, there must be an element of fate attached to it.
Coughlin comes to the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend with an opportunity to wrap up his fifth Pro Stock world championship title at the historic facility. He is 71 points in front of his closest challenger, Jason Line.
With six victories at Pomona in 13 career final round appearances there, including a runner-up effort at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals this year, Coughlin certainly brings plenty of confidence to the final race of the season and the last playoff event in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Of Coughlin’s six Pomona wins, three of them have come at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, including his last two, in 2007 and 2005. He’s not ready to call it his home track just yet, but it sure has become a nice home away from home for him over the years.
“Pomona, it’s an electrical and magical place,” Coughlin said. “We’re fortunate in the NHRA Mello Yello Series where we’ve got Pomona as the bookends of the season.
“There’s so much excitement, it is hard not to pull off of that excitement and energy, in my case, to be able to get out there and want to perform better than I ever had. I’ve had some great, great runs at Pomona and we hope for this year to be no different.”
The veteran driver also has proven he can finish off a championship. He’s won four Pro Stock crowns, including two during the Countdown to the Championship era.
“We have been very fortunate to win a lot of rounds, win a lot of races, and put ourselves in the position to win a lot of championships,” said Coughlin, who has earned 56 career Pro Stock victories and claimed his last championship title in 2008. “We’ve brought several of those home. They are all extremely challenging in their own right, in their own way.”
After skipping the 2011 season and finishing ninth in the standings last year, Coughlin joined forces with defending world champ Johnson and the move has proven to be very positive. He powered his familiar yellow and black JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to four victories in eight final rounds this season and claimed two No. 1 qualifying positions.
He surged forward in the Countdown by winning the playoff-opener in Charlotte, N.C. and then powered to the victory at the fourth Countdown stop in Reading, Pa. He took over the series lead with the win in Pennsylvania and increased his lead with a semifinal effort at the penultimate race in Las Vegas on Oct. 27.
Now he is ready to secure championship No. 5 and bring home a second straight title for the Johnson & Johnson Racing team and Mopar.
“This season has been unique in a way, partnering and teaming up with Roy and Allen Johnson at J&J Racing, we had just one heck of a season between the three of us,” Coughlin said. “Vincent Nobile, myself and Allen have won a lot of races, won a lot of rounds. At this point we’re in a position to bring home a championship. That would be extremely special not only for our family, but the Johnson family and also for everyone at Mopar and Dodge. It’s been a big season.”
However, even with the significant lead, Coughlin isn’t getting too far ahead of himself. He realizes one tiny slip and Line, Mike Edwards, Las Vegas winner Shane Gray or Johnson could take advantage and pull the title from his grasp in the final moments of the season. Edwards is 80 points back, Gray trails by 84, and Johnson is 93 behind in fourth place. There is a maximum of 150 points on the table for a single driver, and each round win earns a driver 20 points.
A 20-point bonus is also available for a national record elapsed time performance. The current national record was set in April at Charlotte, N.C., by Edwards at 6.471 seconds. Line holds the Pomona track record at 6.495 seconds, set last November.
There are many different scenarios for exactly when Coughlin can clinch the championship, and it could come as early as the quarterfinals depending on qualifying bonus points and qualifying positions. He could also be forced to race to the final round to get the job done.
Either way, Coughlin and his team are focused on the job at hand. “We’re riding pretty high and things look good, but we’ve got work to do,” Coughlin said. “Everyone on this JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger race team knows that. In the past, we’ve come to Pomona needing a huge weekend to come from behind and win it all and we’ve done it. We’ve also come here with a lead and lost it. No one in our pit is going to take anything for granted. We all know what we need to do.”