By Lee Elder
ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 5, 2018) – Jeg Coughlin jumped onto the hot seat when he snagged the top spot on top of the NHRA Pro Stock qualifying list at the AAA Texas Fallnationals Friday.
With two qualifying sessions to come Saturday, Coughlin is in position to move from fourth in the NHRA Countdown standings into the top three before Sunday’s eliminations begin. The point leadership is as uncertain in NHRA Pro Stock as in any racing division in the world this year, as is the provisional pole sitter on Fridays.
“The goal coming into the Countdown was definitely to be much more aggressive, cautiously more aggressive, to try and see if we couldn’t earn a couple of small points along the way,” said Coughlin.
Also berthed in temporary top spots were Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Coughlin’s best pass, which came in Friday’s second session, was 6.599 seconds and 207.53 mph. He had already top qualifying three times this season.
“I was very pleasantly surprised to hear that .599 come over my earpiece as I was getting the chutes out and starting to slow down,” Coughlin said. “The car felt just fantastic. I let the clutch out and the car was starting to accelerate. The front end was just gradually climbing but nothing too inefficient and kind of banged through the gears one, two, three, four, just as quick as I said it.”
Teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line were second and third in the Pro Stock order.
Smith’s Pro Stock Motorcycle time was 6.876 seconds at 197.65 mph.
“The conditions are pretty hot today, the track seems like it was very good for how hot it was,” Smith said.
Both Smith and Coughlin said the racing surface was very accommodating to the bright sunshine that bathed the region Friday. Coughlin said the Motorplex is, “One of the few that can handle that intense sun.”
Smith, who is leads the PSM Countdown standings, is looking for a sponsor to help fund his team for the remainder of the season. He said, “We’ve been working on power, trying to find some power and we found some power. It showed at Sonoma because we ran good out there. The new body (on the motorcycle) just helped everything out. … The biggest difference is the back end of the bike. It allows the air to get out of the bike.”
Johnson Jr. said that after his Funny Car ran quickly in the first round his team decided to be aggressive in the later session. His category-best pass in Q2 was 3.958 seconds and 323.66 mph. Tim Wilkerson was second and J.R. Todd was third.
“The first few cars ran and they were a little quicker than I thought they were going to be,” Johnson said. “It cooled down, but not a lot, so we stood on it. It ran well the first round, went down the racetrack. It gave us the option to be able to do that.”
Johnson began the weekend sixth in the Countdown and scored points in each session Friday.
“It’s almost like you’ve got to peak at the right time,” Johnson said. “I thought you needed to be peaking at the first race in the Countdown. But I’m not so sure you don’t need to be peaking more towards the middle of it because you gotta finish it.”
Millican topped the Top Fuel charts at 3.726 seconds and 328.54 mph. Points leader Steve Torrence was second and defending champ Brittany Force was third.
NOTES: John Force Racing announced after Friday’s second qualifying session that JFR driver Robert Hight underwent surgery earlier in the week for open reduction and internal fixation on his left clavicle. There was no word whether the surgery was related to the explosive finish to Hight’s victorious final round pass two weeks ago. Hight was seventh after two rounds of qualifying Friday. … NHRA.com reported 18 entries for Pro Stock, the same for Funny Car and 20 for Top Fuel. In Friday’s first round, 16 Pro Stock Motorcycles and 18 Pro Stock cars made attempts, 15 Funny Cars recorded times and 14 Top Fuel cars went down the track. … The fastest three cars in Pro Stock’s Q1 session were KB Racing entries and they were separated by .006 of a second.