BITHLO, Fla. – Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s retirement tour has already racked up a number of incredible moments, but Sunday’s may be hard to top.
In an epic final round between two of Pro Stock’s biggest legends at Orlando Speed World Dragway, it was Coughlin who slipped past Greg Anderson in a side-by-side thriller to claim the $75,000 prize at the inaugural Drag Illustrated World Doorslammer Nationals presented by CTech Manufacturing.
Coughlin’s run of 6.484 seconds at 212.36 mph in his RJ Race Cars JEGS Camaro edged out Anderson’s 6.485-second run at 213.81 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro, handing the five-time Pro Stock world champion the biggest single-race payout in the history of the class, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020.
“I’ve been fortunate to run a bunch of big-money bracket races in my career and I’ve seen the organized havoc like this, and it’s just badass,” Coughlin said. “There’s no more prideful feeling than pulling around for a final of a big-money race, and this one is right there at the top with them now. To see all the fans and all the teams crowded around to take in the moment, it’s pretty cool. You want to make it happen and fortunately we did that today.”
With the victory, Coughlin, who announced his retirement from full-time Pro Stock racing at the end of the season, continues to build on a spectacular run that includes two NHRA wins in the past three races dating back to last year, plus the history-making win on Sunday.
It took a trio of passes in the 6.40s to do it, as Coughlin beat Bo Butner, his nephew, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Elite Motorsports teammate Aaron Stanfield before the titanic matchup with Anderson.
“We’re on top of the world,” crew chief Rickie Jones said. “To win this race is just huge. It was the throwdown of throwdowns right there, and nobody was holding anything back. It was neck and neck, and we were fortunate to come up on the right side of it. It was just an unbelievable job by the whole team. It was really special. We’re on a great roll now, so hopefully we can keep it going. This is definitely some great bragging rights and we’re going to take some time to enjoy this.”
Coughlin and Anderson met for the 23rd time in a Pro Stock final round (including one shootout final in 2009), as the two class legends treated fans to another classic duel. Coughlin edged past Anderson on the starting line with a .032 reaction time, staying just in front of the four-time champ down the track.
The winning margin was less than three feet, giving Coughlin a 12-11 advantage in final rounds over the 94-time event winner. It was a crushing loss for Anderson, who has thrived on success in shootout-type races, but he had nothing but praise for the incredible final round and weekend.
“I love racing Jeggie and we’ve had so many titanic battles every time we race,” Anderson said. “I respect the hell out of him and it’s just been a lot of fun for a lot of years. It was really a great weekend for Pro Stock. I think everybody that was down here enjoyed it.”
Coughlin qualified sixth with a 6.478-second pass at 212.76 mph during Saturday’s impeccable conditions, and he barely strayed from that during eliminations. He went 6.489 seconds at 212.16 mph to open the day, surging past his nephew a round later with an identical 6.489-second run at 211.99 mph. That put him against Stanfield, who had made the two previous best runs of the day (6.471 and 6.475) before the semifinal matchup.
Coughlin, though, drove his way to the finals, inching past Stanfield’s 6.502-second pass with a 6.501-second run at 212.36 mph, setting up the must-see matchup with Anderson.
Facing off with his longtime rival has become commonplace for Coughlin over the years, but doing it with $75,000 on the line was a first, making Sunday’s clash that much more special.
“Aaron was leading the pack all day and Rickie made some pretty aggressive changes to the car, and he had confidence in it,” Coughlin said. “We went out and snuck by Aaron, and we looked to get after it in the final round.
“We were a little more aggressive with it and felt like we could run high 40s. It was a hell of an effort and the right win light came on. It was very cool. Orlando Speed World (Dragway) didn’t disappoint. We’re going to hoist this trophy and hoist it proudly.”
For Anderson, there was plenty of positives to reflect on, including righting the ship after some major struggles to open 2020. That will be quickly forgotten after Anderson stayed in the 6.40s throughout qualifying and during every run in eliminations, beating Kyle Koretsky, Shane Tucker and longtime KB Racing teammate Jason Line to reach the finals.
That takes some of the sting of coming up just short of the monumental $75,000 prize, as did the fact that Anderson and his team had so much fun during the memorable weekend.
“It was disappointing but I had a lot of damn fun,” Anderson said. “It was really cool and, honestly, the first two races this year I didn’t even make it down the track in either one (in eliminations). This was a heck of an improvement and it’s been a great week of racing. I’m happy. We had major, major improvements and we made major gains. We’re going to still have to do work, and we just have to keep working.”