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

NHRA
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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

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III