Jeg Coughlin Jr. upsets world champ, improves an NHRA record, reaches quarterfinals


CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 25) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. made a little history Sunday in front of a sellout crowd at the 34th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, beating reigning Pro Stock champion Bo Butner on a holeshot in the opening round of eliminations, which increased his record mark of professional holeshot wins to 101. He almost got No. 102 one round later but lost by three-thousandths of a second to teammate Alex Laughlin.

“I knew Bo would be tough,” Coughlin said. “Obviously, he’s our world champ from last season and with KB power they’re real tough. I figured I could help the cause with a good light and was able to get a nice jump on him there that ended up keeping us in front through the finish line.

“It wasn’t easy. I really had my hands full with the JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro. I let the clutch out and it was moving a little bit left and was real hot on wheel speed. I got it into second early and that kind of calmed it down. Then it was just a matter of riding the famous ‘Firebird bumps’ and getting it down the lane. There was a lot going on behind the wheel that run but we got the round win.”

A holeshot win occurs when a driver beats a quicker opponent by leaving the starting line with a better reaction time. Against Butner, Coughlin reacted to the tree with a stellar .012-second launch ahead of Butner’s .053-second start. The chase was on from there but Coughlin’s .041-second head-start allowed him to win with a 6.574 at 209.49 mph against Butner’s hard-charging 6.555 at 211.03 mph.

Coughlin nearly did it again in the quarterfinals, leaving in .016 seconds, just ahead of Laughlin’s .026-second start. But this time Laughlin was able to chase down and pass the six-time world champ with a 6.577 at 209.92 mph, .003-seconds in front of Coughlin’s 6.590 at 209.69 mph.

“That was a great race,” Coughlin said. “It was the classic door-handle-to-door-handle deal most of the way down the track. I had to look at the win lights on the wall to see who won because it was very close crossing the finish line. I guess he edged us by about a foot so good for that group. We obviously know what kind of horsepower they have so I wouldn’t have expected anything different.

“On a positive note, Alex goes on to the semifinals so for sure we’ll have an Elite driver with a shot at making the final. I sure wish it was us but I’m pleased with the progress we’re making as a team. It’s a very stacked field once again this year so I’d expect a lot of close racing like we had today every weekend.”

Pro Stock eliminations will air on FOX Sports 2 from 7-10 p.m., Sunday. (Time listed is local and subject to change.)

The NHRA tour takes two weekends off before returning to action March 16-18 with the 49th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway in Florida.