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

Photos: Team JEGS
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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.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”