Five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. lost a close second-round battle with four-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, which put an end to Coughlin’s time at the 57th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals.
Anderson managed to get a slight edge at the starting line and was able to hold off Coughlin’s JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro at every timing cone, winning with a 6.567 at 210.93 mph to Coughlin’s 6.585 at 209.85 mph. At the time, Anderson’s run was the quickest of the session.
“I think with the limited amount of testing we did coming in, at least with me behind the wheel, that to come out and qualify as well as we did and run as consistently as we did, is a great start,” Coughlin said. “The race was close, but I believe that’s going to be the landscape of Pro Stock this year. It’s going to be extremely tough every round.
“You can already tell there’s going to be little room for error anywhere whether it be here in the trailer and in the pits as we’re preparing for a run or on the track with reaction time or individual shifts. Any little miscue will take you out of a round win because the pack’s pretty tight right now.”
To get a shot at Anderson, Coughlin had to beat first-round opponent Deric Kramer, which he did handily, launching first (.018 to .054 seconds) and arriving at the finish line first with a competitive 6.574 at 210.24 mph to Kramer’s 6.638 at 205.41 mph.
“We’re definitely going to search for some more efficiency out of our cars,” Coughlin said. “I have a lot of faith in this Elite Motorsports team to put these cars together and re-instill the program as they had it in 2014-2015 when they won two straight championships with my teammate Erica Enders.
“We’re light years ahead of where we were a year ago this time, not that that means a darned thing, but I feel great and I think we’re all very optimistic. We’re a team poised to race together, win together and have fun together.”
Across the pits, Coughlin’s nephew, Troy Jr., also reached the second round in his SealMaster Top Fuel dragster. After beating Shawn Reed with a 3.728 at 328.46 mph to Reed’s 3.854 at 316.60 mph, he lost to reigning world champion Antron Brown on a hole-shot, with Brown’s quick start and 3.733 at 325.69 mph enough to beat Troy Jr.’s 3.727 at 327.35 mph.
“Not a bad day,” Troy said. “I really just need to keep getting used to the process on the starting line and really hone in on the bulb for better reaction times. I’ll keep working on my speed and strength training during the off weeks. That will help also.
“We came into this race with a lot of thoughts on how these things work so we have a little bit more experience going to the next race. Maybe that’s worth a couple hundredths of reaction time, which would have helped me today.
“Rob Flynn, Connie Kalitta and the Sealmaster Toyota guys have got this thing working so consistently. They’ve given me a car to compete in that’s going to be a winner’s circle bandit, so I just need to get a hold of my end of it so we can get on a roll and enjoy this ride.”
Teamjegs.com contributed to this report.