NHRA Winternationals - Mopar cars make good in NHRA season opener

Mike Cotten (near lane) defeated Jody Lang for the Super Stock win.

When Jeg Coughlin Jr. unveiled his Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger late last year, the four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ declared his new ride would “fire some shots off the bow immediately” in 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competition. And Feb. 12 at the 52nd Annual NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., that’s exactly what the Delaware, Ohio, native did.

In his first event following a one-year hiatus from Pro Stock, and in his inaugural race in his 2012 Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge Avenger, Coughlin backed up his pre-season statement, coming all the way from the No. 14 starting position to make a stunning run to the final round. The runner-up performance today marked Coughlin’s 85th final-round appearance, his 11th at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona and his first final in a Mopar-powered Dodge since he won the 2005 NHRA Finals at Pomona.

The Team Mopar driver demonstrated in the first round that his one-year break left nary a trace of rust. Coughlin’s 6.581-second pass at 210.47 mph was slower than Humphrey’s 6.569/211.99 mark, but his faster reflexes off the starting line (a .021 reaction time to his opponent’s .059) gave him the winning edge.

In the quarterfinals Coughlin won a battle of Mopars, edging out the Dodge Avenger of Vincent Nobile with a 6.590/209.85 pass.

In the semifinals against Mike Edwards, Coughlin took the win with 6.615/209.30 run after Edwards left early, taking the loss on a red-light foul. Yet another former Pro Stock champion, Greg Anderson, awaited Coughlin in the final round. The dream finish was not be, as Coughlin’s quicker reaction time of .017 with a 6.586/209.62 pass wasn’t enough to defeat Anderson (.027, 6.459/210.87).

“The team really showed a lot of character this weekend,” said Coughlin. “This is the third track we’ve been on since we started this program. We’re really just starting to peck away at our inefficiencies. After the three qualifying runs we were fourteenth, and we kind of clawed our way through it today.

“We’re going to fly this engine back to Mooresville (NC) at JNR Racing engines, and Roy (Simmons) and Nick (Ferri) are going to see if they can fine-tune it through the week. We’ve got a couple of days where we might learn some things about this Mopar HEMI powerplant that is still very new to us. If we can make any gains, that’s going to be huge for us. In the meantime we’ve got to keep our focus on Phoenix.

“All in all, we’re very, very stoked. I don’t get too excited very often, but to see this program go from a great conversation and a lot of heart and soul and passion, to making it to the runner-up at Pomona, that’s job well done. But there’s a lot of work to do. We’re not going to skim through some of the runs in the future like we did today. We have to bear down and work hard and get this Mopar/JEGS.com Dodge a bit faster.”