The 2023 season of NHRA's Camping World Drag Racing Series started on an exceptionally high note for Troy Coughlin Jr. as he wheeled his yellow and black JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro to the third Pro Stock victory of his career at the season-opener, but the two races that followed left much to be desired. For the third-generation competitor, he knows the tables will soon turn – and he's hoping it's this weekend in Las Vegas.
"I was ecstatic, but these are long seasons," said Coughlin, who was jubilant to start the year in Gainesville with the Gatornationals win but realizes patience and perspective is key.
"The way life and competition work, it's cyclical – it has its ups and downs, and you have to expect that going in," he continued. "It's all about how you handle the lows. You really have to handle them as well as you do the highs, and then you have to look at where you struggled and tackle that. That's what we're doing right now."
At the second race of the season, in Phoenix, Coughlin qualified No. 7. It was still respectable, but a far cry from the pole position he landed in Gainesville that came along with low elapsed time and top speed of the meet. When a foul start sent him home in the first round without any hardware to speak of, Coughlin turned his sights toward Pomona, but the Winternationals brought another unpleasant ending with a start from the eighth position and a second-round loss – this time on a holeshot.
"But you have to look at how well the car is doing right now," said Coughlin, who was No. 3 in the qualifying order after the first day of Las Vegas qualifying. He also scooped up two bonus points as the second-quickest in the second session. "Our guys are making good decisions with the car. It's my job to go up and try to make really good attempts this weekend and live within the six inches in front of my face."
Coughlin is competing in the 65th Pro Stock race of his career, so the four-wide format is not new to him. He's also had some good fortune in previous four-across racing as he reached the final round of the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals in 2021. He finished third in the final quad, thereby technically logging a semifinals finish. He appreciates the opportunity to mix things up a bit this weekend. Coughlin believes four-wide races this weekend at The Strip and then again in Charlotte in two weeks may be just what it takes to get back on track.
"Resetting after a couple of tough losses is challenging, but it's also the fun part," he said. "We love to be here, we love what we do, and essentially it should be really simple because we know what it takes to do well. We have great ingredients and wonderful people here at Elite Motorsports, and they have this JEGS.com/White Castle machine running awesome.
"[Four-wide] is different, and I like that. It's more of a challenge, and there's a lot going on. You have to have the utmost peace and acceptance with the results, no matter what they are because you really don't have control over the results, only over how you respond. We're loaded for bear this weekend, and we're ready to put our best foot forward and see what comes out of it."