NHRA: 5-time champ Jeg Coughlin to run 3 Pro Stock races for Elite Motorsports

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JOLIET, Il. — Some of the biggest news of the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals weekend involved a driver who wasn’t even in the field.

Five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin will return to the sport for a minimum three-race stint for defending Pro Stock championship team Elite Motorsports, where he’ll team up with defending Pro Stock champ Erica Enders.

“Jeg and I have been friends for years, and this is something we’ve talked about from time to time,” team owner Richard Freeman said. “The situation presented itself where he could jump in Erica’s backup car and have some fun with us on the Western Swing and at Indy, so I called him up to see if he’d be interested. He was, and we’re planning on winning some races together.”

Coughlin will compete at NHRA national events at Sonoma (Calif., July 31-Aug. 2), Seattle (Aug. 7-9) and the biggest race of the season, the 61st annual U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis (Sept. 2-7).

“I’m excited and honored that Richard and his guys thought of me,” Coughlin said of Freeman. “This program needs no introduction. Erica showed everyone in the class what that car and team are capable of last year and to follow in her footsteps will be a tough chore, but it’s a challenge I accept with a big smile.

“It’s going to be a unique situation for me where I’m sort of just a hired driver with no stake in the operation other than my passion and will to win. I’m certainly cognizant of my supporting role to what the team is trying to accomplish again this year, and I’ll do all I can to help them reach their goals.”

Coughlin chose to sit out this season – the second time he’s done so in the last five years – for business and family reasons.

But the lure to drive a second car for Elite in those three races was too great for Coughlin to turn down.

This is the second time Coughlin and Freeman have teamed up. Back in 2006, Coughlin drove a Competition Eliminator car for Elite Motorsports in the U.S. Nationals.

“Richard and I have been buddies forever and it was fun to drive his car back in ’06,” Coughlin said. “Ever since then we always joked around about racing together again, and when this deal came along I guess all the pieces just fell into place for us to go ahead and do it again.”

With Elite power, Coughlin has a good shot at earning his 75th career NHRA win (58 in Pro Stock, 16 in Sportsman competition).

“Jeg will have the same equipment and horsepower that Erica has, and the crew will prepare that car exactly that same as they did earlier this year when Erica won some races with it,” Freeman said. “We want to give him every opportunity to win. If I have it my way, it’ll be Erica and Jeg in the final round at every race.”

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)