By Lee Elder
BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 17, 2018) – Some day they’ll sit together in the Hall of Fame. Sunday, they faced each other in the Pro Stock final.
Jeg Coughlin beat Greg Anderson for the Pro Stock trophy in the NHRA’s Fitzgerald USA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. It was like Dempsey-Tunney, Dodgers-Yankees or Lakers-Celtics. It was two of history’s best putting it on the line.
Tony Schumacher won in Top Fuel and Ron Capps was the Funny Car winner.
“I let the clutch out, I knew I hit the three pretty well and the car just rolled out, picked the front end up nice and I went, ‘Come on baby, let’s get it to the finish line first,’ and it sure did,” Coughlin said.
Mother Nature was probably the dominant factor on Father’s Day weekend. The track temperatures reached 139 degrees, the highest recorded this season. Air temperatures were in the 90s at times. The hot track challenged the teams to find grip.
“(Crew Chiefs) Rick and Rickie Jones really read the track extremely well,” Coughlin said. “We had a car that was fast three of the four rounds. I had lane choice going into the final against Greg, which felt fantastic and we moved from the right lane over to the left.”
Coughlin left the line first and completed the run in 6.709 seconds, at 205.10 mph. Anderson’s run was 6.741 seconds at 205.07 mph. It was Coughlin’s 60th career Pro Stock victory and it came on a day when he picked up two round wins in unusual ways. His first-round win was a walkover when the scheduled opponent could not repair his car after crashing on Saturday. His third-round victory came when his opponent left too early and turned on the red light on the starting line tree. In drag racing, they don’t ask how, they ask how quick.
It was the second time in three races that Coughlin and Anderson faced each other for the trophy, essentially a remake of the 2004 film Godzilla: Final Wars. Coughlin won in Joliet, Illinois. It was the 20th time they have faced each other in a Pro Stock final round through the years.
Schumacher won for the first time this season, defeating upset-minded Mike Salinas in the final. Schumacher left first and clocked in at 3.946 seconds, 313.58 mph. Salinas was the 29th driver Schumacher has faced in a final round race and Salinas became the 159th Top Fuel finalist in the history of the category. Salinas had never raced in a final round of Top Fuel, Schumacher made his 150th final round start. But Schumacher had not raced in a final in better than a calendar year.
“Today was great,” Schumacher said. “The car, all weekend, was running good. We were just going a little bit, spinning the tires, a little bit, spinning the clutch. They said, ‘We’re going to get it right and we’re going to run low 90.’ Perfect timing.”
Schumacher talked about his winless string and recalled winning 15 races in one season. That year, he said, the team joked that they didn’t need winners circle pictures and could just use the pictures from the previous win.
“Well, guess what,” Schumacher grinned. “We don’t have pictures from last weekend, so we’re going to enjoy this party today.”
It was the 30th time Capps has raced veteran Bob Tascam but the first time the two have raced each other in a final round. Capps’ win came one race before Schumacher’s and it was the 300th nitro class victory for Don Schumacher Racing. It was Capps’ fifth win at Bristol and his 59th overall.
“There are certain races that you just happen to do well at,” Capps said. He added, “Drivers will tell you, different crew chiefs, different cars, there’s just something about this place.”
Capps said the Funny Car trophy would go to team owner Don Schumacher.
“We’re going to have a fun, fun summer,” Capps said. “We’ve got an eye on trying to get the point lead before we get to Brainerd. It’s going to be fun trying.”
NOTES: The track temperature for the second round of nitro eliminations was 139 degrees, believed to be the highest reading of the season. … Five of the first six cars in the Top Fuel standings got through the first round, six of the first seven in Funny Car made it through, seven of the first nine in Pro Stock got to the second round. Mike Salinas and Scott Palmer raced in the semifinals of Top Fuel. The drivers who did not get that far in the same side of the bracket included Doug Kavita, Clay Millikan, Brittany Force and Leah Pritchett. … John Force raced Ron Capps in the first round of Funny Car, a rare meeting that early in the day for the pair. Capps won, his 38th victory over Force in 94 meetings. … The Pro Stock final matching Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin put veterans of 256 total final rounds in a final each other. … The semi-final round of Funny Car included cars from the Force, Tasca, Kalitta and Schumacher teams.