POMONA, Calif. – Five-time Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. had a monumental day at the 60th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com.
Coughlin kicked off the day by announcing that the 2020 season will be his last season as a professional Pro Stock driver. He followed up the announcement by claiming the No. 1 qualifying spot.
Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Brittany Force (Top Fuel) also clinched No. 1 qualifier positions in their respective categories in the first of 24 races during the 2020 NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series season.
Coughlin is looking to go out with a bang after announcing that he will be retiring from full-time Pro Stock racing at the conclusion of the 2020 season. He is off to a good start by seeding himself at the top with a run of 6.525 seconds at 210.77 mph. Looking to compete for his sixth Pro Stock world title, this marks Coughlin’s 33rd career No. 1 qualifier. He will face Joey Grose in the opening round of eliminations.
“I announced this is going to be my final full professional season in Pro Stock,” said Coughlin. “I let the clutch out for the first time in 1997 in Dallas and I’ve let the clutch out every year since. I’ve just had a magnificent run.
“My family has been unbelievable. We had a lot going for us, but we did the most with it without a doubt. I’m definitely not hanging up the helmet, but will you see me full time in Pro Stock again? It’s not very likely. I love drag racing. I’m very competitive as a person and as a racer. There is a lot of good racing left in my life. I’m looking forward to that and turning that chapter. I’ve made thousands and thousands of runs and wouldn’t change it one bit. It’s going to be a fun year and so far it’s started out extremely well.”
Deric Kramer follows close behind in the second spot with a 6.549 seconds at 210.08 mph. Teammate Erica Enders is sitting in the third spot with a 6.552 seconds at 210.80 mph.
In the Funny Car ranks, Hagan continued his 2019 momentum by clinching the No. 1 qualifier spot with a 3.841-second pass at 333.25 mph in his MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. He picked up his 37th career No. 1 qualifier and fifth at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Hagan will face off against Alex Miladinovich in the first round of eliminations.
“This Funny Car is flying out there,” said Hagan. “I was tickled to hang on to it. When they put a hot rod underneath you like that, it’s always fun. I was a little mad at myself on that run. I was probably wheeling on the steering wheel a bit much. As a guy that’s been out here 13 years, you just know when you kinda got to let them float. My guys are doing an amazing job. Robert (Hight) took it back and we took it right back from him again. How can you complain about that? Going into race day, my lights have been great. The car is running great. My guys are doing a phenomenal job and we came off a really strong season last year.”
Jack Beckman sits in the second position after a run of 3.856 seconds at 328.86 mph. Robert Hight will start his Sunday from the third position after a 3.862-second pass at 331.45 mph.
Top Fuel driver Force picked up her 19th career No. 1 qualifier with a run of 3.657 seconds at 334.32 mph. This marks only her second No. 1 qualifying position at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Force will have a bye during the first round of eliminations, but will face off against the winner of the Clay Millican and Terry McMillen showdown for the second round.
“That was an incredible pass for this team,” Force said. “It’s the first race of the season and I’m excited to be out here in Pomona. I’m excited to be out here with the same team. We came out this weekend and ran consistent all weekend long. We were able to push on that last run. It was pretty incredible and I’m ready to go into race day tomorrow. Your confidence going into the start of the season is much higher. Last season we came out strong from the beginning. We hung on to that number one spot and I just found out Austin (Prock) was number two. Pretty exciting. JFR is off to a good start this season.”
Force’s teammate Austin Prock is starting out the season strong by clinching the second spot with a 3.680-second run at 330.72 mph. Following close behind in third will be Leah Pruett after a run of 3.687 seconds at 328.06 mph.
Due to impending weather, eliminations have been move up to 10 a.m. PT on Sunday.