Parking a perfectly good race car immediately following a national event victory might seem like a risky strategy but it hasn't fazed Jeg Coughlin Jr., who did just that when he parked his Jerry Haas-built Camaro following the Phoenix race and has debuted a new Rick Jones-built chassis here in Gainesville. Coughlin and his Elite Motorsports team tested the new car extensively before arriving in Gainesville and after two runs on Friday, he’s just four-thousandths of a second behind provisional leader Bo Butner with a 6.560.
“Phoenix was a really good race for us; we were in the right place at the right time and it’s good to bank a win early in the season, “said Coughlin. “As for bringing the new car here, some might call it gutsy, but I wasn’t at all concerned. This R.J. car is a cage forward design and it’s not new to them. Rick and Rickie [Jones] know exactly what they’re doing, and the transition has been fairly smooth. We had great success with he Haas car including the Phoenix win but we’ve been contemplating this win for a while. We thought about brining a new car out for Pomona; my car was supposed to be first off the jig but Erica ended up with he first one. At the time, my car was running so well we just thought that was a better plan. Obviously, Erica ran really well in Pomona and also in Phoenix so when it came time to bring my new car out, we knew what we had.”
With a hectic schedule that includes multiple business and family commitments, Coughlin doesn’t often attend test sessions with his Elite teammates, but he went to Orlando Speed World Dragway the week before Gainesville in order to familiarize himself with the new car.
“We were in Orlando from Monday to Wednesday and we made 12 runs total and all but two of them were good,” he said. “At that point I was very confident that we’d be just fine coming here to Gainesville. It’s never a bad idea to get a little more seat time and we were able to get even more data that will help all of our cars.”
Comparing the two chassis, most of their differences would be best described as subtle, but Coughlin, who has made thousands of runs in a Pro Stock car during his 20-plus year career, says he could immediately tell the difference.
“The first time that I hopped in an RJ car was in 2015 when I ran the Sonoma race and I liked it,” Coughlin said. “The ergonomics were just a tick more comfortable. It’s a bit hard to explain but I think it’s just a design that works well for me. And this is Pro Stock where nothing stays the same for long. We’ve already learned a few things with these cars and Rick and Rickie are making a few changes.”
Coughlin has 81 national event wins spread over seven different NHRA eliminators but he’s only won in Gainesville twice and his most recent victory was in 2008.
“I’d love to pick up another one, especially with this new car,” Coughlin said. “You don’t’ get many opportunities to win a 50th anniversary race. This is only the third one that NHRA has had. This would be a great opportunity to win a marquee event.”