Photos: Team JEGS

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

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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.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

Follow @JerryBonkowski