After watching three different Elite Motorsports teammates win the past three events in Pro Stock, longtime class standout Jeg Coughlin Jr. is ready to be the next to join the list of 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series winners and grab his first victory since 2014.
The five-time Pro Stock world champion will get his chance at this weekend’s 38th annual NHRA Southern Nationals Powered by Mello Yello at Atlanta Dragway, where Coughlin is a three-time winner. Erica Enders, Matt Hartford, and Vincent Nobile have put together victories in recent weeks, keeping Coughlin, who is currently 11th in Pro Stock points, hopeful and motivated that he can be the next to break through in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro.
“The Elite team has certainly found its stride and it's been great to see my teammates win the last three races," Coughlin said. "We definitely want to get involved in the fun and with the way our car has been running lately, we have a high level of excitement in this pit. Honestly, it's exciting to arrive at a race knowing you can win. It's a matter of making the least amount of mistakes and executing on race day. Bottom line, you have to be near-perfect to win a race in this class."
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the seventh of 24 events in 2018 and after not visiting the winner’s circle in the past 72 races dating back to 2014, Coughlin, who has 58 career wins, is ready to break the longest winless stretch of his incredible career.
The good news is he appears to be close to breaking through, advancing to the semifinals in Houston before losing to eventual winner Hartford, and the second quad at the four-wide event in Charlotte last weekend. Coughlin knows there is still work that needs to be done, but he continues to have the utmost confidence in a team that has always persevered in adverse times.
“We've known, through the performances of other teams that use Elite motors, that we've had the horsepower, it was just a matter of getting the most out of the race cars,” Coughlin said. “The incredible effort put in by the guys has really impressed me. There is simply no give-up in this group. Obviously they've won championships before with Erica and the same crew has remained in place since then. They just don't quit and there's no finger-pointing. We all just stay humble and keep after it. Credit (team owner) Richard Freeman for his leadership.”
Coughlin will look to keep up the impressive parity in Pro Stock by becoming the seventh different winner in the first seven races of the year. To do it, he’ll have to get by his Elite teammates, as well as points leader Bo Butner, who won in Pomona, Phoenix winner Chris McGaha, and Gainesville winner Tanner Gray. Looking for his first Atlanta win since 2014, Coughlin likes his chances this weekend as the friendly competitiveness between teammates has made a big difference.
“We've all stepped up," said Coughlin, whose last world championship came in 2013. "Vincent won Vegas, Matt Hartford beat Erica in Houston, then Erica beat Vincent and two others at the four-wide this past weekend. Obviously, our Elite crew chiefs – Rick and Rickie Jones, Mark Ingersoll, and Brian 'Lump' Self – have figured some things out and the crew guys on each car are executing very well. It feels so good to have competitive cars."
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 6:45 p.m. on Friday, May 4 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 5, at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 6.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.