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.”