NHRA: Jeg Coughlin Jr. still has business left to handle in season finale

Photo courtesy Jeg Coughlin Jr.
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With second-year driver Tanner Gray having all but locked up the NHRA Pro Stock championship, one might think five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. might not have much left to race for in this weekend’s season-ending Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California.

Coughlin, who was Pro Stock champion in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2013, as well as was runner-up in 1998 and 1999, says that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Gray holds a commanding 140-point lead over second-ranked Coughlin in the Pro Stock rankings (teammate and two-time champ Erica Enders is right behind in third place, 149 points back).

With a maximum of 191 points available to be won in the season finale at Auto Club Raceway, Gray would have to lose in the first round of eliminations, while Coughlin would need to qualify No. 1, win the race and set at least one of two speed or elapsed time national records to even have a shot at overtaking Gray for the Pro Stock crown.

But instead of worrying about “ifs,” Coughlin is going to go out this weekend doing what he’s done his entire career: not worry about the driver in the other lane, not worry about points and just be concerned with doing the best possible job he can do.

And if Gray wins the championship, so be it, and Coughlin will go over and congratulate the young driver for an outstanding 2018 season.

“Pomona is going to be an important race for us as a team,” Coughlin said in a Jegs.com media release. “It’s a big positioning race for us to figure out really who will finish two through seven. It’s very open right now.

“Not only do we want to qualify well and win four rounds on Sunday, we would like to finish as high as No. 2 in the points standings. But even though we’re there going in, it’s going to be a fight to stay there. We are just going to focus on that.”

Coughlin has three wins and two runner-ups in the first 23 races of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

He’s also qualified No. 1 three separate times during the first five races of the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs (and has qualified No. 1 five times overall this season).

Coughlin and the fabled Pomona track have a long and successful history, with the Ohio native having won there six times in his Pro Stock career, including four times in the season-ending race (1999, 2001, 2005 and 2007).

“It’s Pomona, the final race of the season, and emotions are high,” Coughlin said. “I’m excited on many levels and for many reasons.

“There’s just a lot of neat stuff going on and we still have some ambitions of our own at a track where we’ve had great successes in the past. It’s going to be a big race for us as a team as we try to continue some great momentum and end the year in style.”

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.