NHRA

NHRA: Jeg Coughlin Jr. begins quest for sixth Pro Stock championship this weekend

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He may have lost at “The Big Go,” but that won’t stop Jeg Coughlin Jr. as he begins his quest for a sixth career NHRA Pro Stock championship this weekend.

Coughlin just barely missed winning the U.S. Nationals in the final round last Monday, Sept. 3, falling to Tanner Gray in a very close finish.

Gray got a quicker jump at the start line and covered the quarter-mile in 6.641 seconds at a slightly faster 208.42 mph, to Coughlin’s 6.639 seconds at 206.80 mph.

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

But there was still some consolation to be found for Coughlin and his Jeg’s team: they solidified a fourth-place starting spot in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which begin this weekend with the Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania.

Coughlin, driver of the Jegs.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro, begins the playoffs just 40 points behind Gray, who leads the 10 playoff drivers in the Pro Stock category.

Coughlin rolled past No. 7 qualifier Alex Laughlin, four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson and defending series champ Bo Butner to reach his fourth final round of the season (in the first 18 races).

Even though he lost by only a few feet to Gray, Coughlin managed to improve from fifth to fourth place with that runner-up run heading into the playoffs.

“I’m so impressed with this Elite Motorsports team,” Coughlin said. “To go from 11th in the points 10 races ago all the way up to No. 4 against this talented field of drivers speaks volumes about the fight in this team.

“I’m very proud of the guys and the momentum we’ve gained.”

With the way he’s climbed up the rankings in the last 10 races, as well as being a five-time Pro Stock season champion (2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2013; he also won the Sportsman Super Gas title in 1992), Coughlin can easily be considered one of the top challengers for the Pro Stock championship this season.

And while losing Indy hurt, it also can provide motivation going forward into the playoffs.

“Losing the ‘Big Go’ is probably gonna sting a little longer than a normal race,” said Coughlin, who comes into this weekend looking for his fourth Pro Stock win of 2018, having previously won this season at Chicago, Bristol and Sonoma. “But the gains we made on the pack under game day conditions certainly has us dreaming big about the playoffs.

“We’re ready to kick things off strong at a Maple Grove, a track I really enjoy. There are so many great cars top to bottom and every run will feel like a final round for the next six events, which we love. It’s going to be very exciting.”

NOTES: While the Dodge NHRA Nationals are slated to run from Thursday through Sunday, NHRA officials and teams are keeping a close eye on the weather. Hurricane Florence could potentially impact the area with heavy rain, particularly on Friday through Sunday.

For now, the race is on. We here at NBC Sports’ MotorSportsTalk will keep you advised if things change weather-wise as the week progresses.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Christopher Bell wins third straight Chili Bowl

@cbnationals, Twitter
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Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 55-lap A-Feature to win the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Bell is only the second driver in event history to win three consecutive Golden Drillers, joining Kevin Swindell who holds the record with four.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to win the Chili Bowl,” Bell said at ChiliBowl.com. “To do it three straight times is just unbelievable, but man, I don’t even care about three straight. What about that race? I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of a last lap race like that, so I’m just glad that thing came out in the end.”

As the white flag waved on his eighth appearance in Saturday’s main event, it seemed Larson was finally going to walk away with his first Golden Driller. This was closest he’s been to the win.

Larson took the lead from Logan Seavey on Lap 21 after a five-lap hot pursuit. Bell moved into second for the first time on Lap 27 but a caution forced him back to third as the field realigned to the last completed lap.

On Lap 33, Bell passed Seavey again for second before another caution reset the field. On the next restart Bell road the rim diving to the hub in Turns 3 and 4. With Larson in sight, Bell started to think about where he was going to put his third trophy.

The final caution flag of the night waved with 20 to go to set up the Bell vs. Larson shootout fans had been waiting for since Larson retired early from the race last year. Larson pulled away on the highline in Turns 1 and 2. He switched to the low in 3 and 4.

With five laps to go Larson hit traffic. That gave Bell the opportunity to close the gap. With two to go Bell was on top of Larson and challenging for the lead. On the final lap Bell passed Larson in Turn 2 as they bumped tires. Glued together through the final pair of turns, they touched twice more before Bell pulled away on the final stretch.

The action wasn’t over, however. Bell wound up on his lid following the win. His donuts got a little out of control and he rolled his midget.

Justin Grant took third by passing Brady Bacon on Lap 36. Bacon followed for fourth with Zach Daum in tow to complete the top five.

Tyler Courtney was the hard charger of the night finishing sixth after starting in 22nd. Brad Sweet and CJ Leary finished seventh and eighth.

Seavey was able to hold onto third until late in the race but ultimately the pole sitter who led the first 20 laps faded to ninth.

Tanner Thorson rounded out the top ten.

Friday’s Main Event

1. Christopher Bell
2. Kyle Larson
3. Justin Grant
4. Brady Bacon
5. Zach Daum
6. Tyler Courtney
7. Brad Sweet
8. CJ Leary
9. Logan Seavey
10. Tanner Thorson
11. Danny Stratton
12. Jonathan Beason
13. Tucker Klaasmeyer
14. Colby Copeland
15. Rico Abreu
16. Michael Faccinto
17. Chad Boat
18. David Gravel
19. Cole Bodine
20. Robert Dalby
21. Jake Neuman
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Shane Golobic
24. Sean McClelland