NHRA: Jeg Coughlin Jr. ready to do some home cookin’ this weekend in Ohio

Photos: Team JEGS
0 Comments

While he looks forward to all of them, there are certain races on the schedule that NHRA Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. has even greater anticipation for when he hits the road.

The iconic U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis is No. 1 for the five-time (2000, 2002, 2007-2008 and 2013) NHRA Pro Stock champ, and this weekend’s NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, is a close second.

There’s a good reason for that: Norwalk is practically in Coughlin’s backyard, about 75 miles from Coughlin’s home north of Columbus, Ohio.

The driver of the JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, which will be sponsored this weekend by Universal Parks and Resorts in Hollywood, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. (part of the NBC Universal family), is Coughlin’s adopted home track (his original home track, National Trail Raceway near Columbus, is no longer on the NHRA national event circuit).

While he has won at 24 different current or former tracks on the NHRA circuit, Coughlin has never won a Pro Stock event at Norwalk. In nine prior starts there, he has a 10-10 round record, but has never taken home a “Wally” winner’s trophy.

That’s why Coughlin is looking for a breakout weekend at his adopted home track. He comes into the weekend ranked eighth in the Pro Stock standings, having struggled of late after capturing a win in the second race of this season at Chandler, Arizona.

Photo: Team JEGS

“The Norwalk weekend would be a perfect place to see this yellow and black JEGS Camaro back on top,” Coughlin said in a media release. “The car’s been running pretty well all along, but of late we really haven’t quite been on the pace we set in the first five races of the year.

The team at Elite (Motorsports) has been working very hard to fix the little performance issues bugging us and they definitely feel like we’re back on track.”

Coughlin is one of the most successful racers in the sport. He has 81 career victories, including 62 in Pro Stock competition. The series veteran is known for being one of the toughest competitors in the class, particularly when it comes to qualifying No. 1 (he’s earned top honors 29 times in his Pro Stock career).

He was No. 1 qualifier in last year’s race at Norwalk (as well as in 2012), but fell short of the race win. He hopes to turn that around this weekend.

“We’re looking to qualify well and contend once again for the No. 1 starting spot,” Coughlin said. “And we’re very anxious to see some win lights come Sunday so we can put ourselves in position to win again.”

Coughlin is one of the top executives of JEGS High Performance, a Columbus-area company that employs over 400 and sells high-performance car parts and more. A large contingent of company workers are expected to head to Norwalk for the weekend, hoping to cheer their boss on to victory.

“Whenever we race Norwalk or back home at National Trail Raceway we always have a huge fan base rooting for us,” Coughlin said. “That makes it so special for everyone that proudly supports our brand.

It also makes it extra satisfying to perform well in front of them because these are people we see every day in the hallways at work. We’re proud to be from Ohio and represent our state all around the country, but nothing beats doing well at home.”

Coughlin began his pro racing career in 1997. Last season, he barely missed out on his sixth career Pro Stock championship (and seventh overall NHRA title), finishing runner-up to Tanner Gray.

Coughlin previously raced for himself under the JEGS banner. But now he’s part of the Elite Motorsports group, which includes two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders, as well as Alex Laughlin and Rodger Brogdon.

With his 62 career Pro Stock wins, Coughlin is No. 4 on the NHRA Pro Stock all-time wins list, trailing Warren Johnson (97), Greg Anderson (91) and the late Bob Glidden (85).

NOTES: After coming oh, so close last weekend in Bristol, Tennessee — No. 1 qualifier and finished runner-up to winner Bob Tasca III — John Force embarks this weekend on yet another bid to earn that elusive 150th win of his NHRA Funny Car career.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.