PHOENIX – Third-generation driver Troy Coughlin Jr. completed the NHRA licensing process for Top Fuel dragsters on Thursday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, under the watchful eye of father Troy Coughlin Sr. and grandfather Jeg Coughlin Sr.
Coughlin Jr. earned his Top Fuel license in the cockpit of Don Schumacher Racing’s Red Fuel dragster, which is driven by Shawn Langdon.
“It was really wild,” he said. “It’s extremely fast, and it’s very aggressive acceleration at its finest. I’ve always thought power and acceleration brings great fascination to one’s mind, and it truly is a wild, wild feeling the way this car pulls from about 100 feet on.”
Coughlin Jr. began working on his Top Fuel license last November, with past Top Fuel champion Del Worsham as a mentor. Weather prevented Coughlin Jr. from finishing the process in 2015, and he wanted to earn the license as soon as possible.
Don Schumacher then offered Coughlin Jr. the chance to complete his license in a DSR dragster during NHRA Nitro Spring Training this week, and Coughlin Jr. jumped at the chance.
“Thanks to Don Schumacher and Don Schumacher Racing and all the guys on the Sandvik/Red Fuel team,” Coughlin Jr. said. “They worked their butts off to get this thing ready and getting it staged and checking everything. It was extremely impressive how well they all worked together.
“And I have to thank Don for the opportunity to finish my licensing process. That’s been awesome.”
Coughlin Jr. made one half run and two full passes on Thursday to earn his license. His best pass was 3.853 seconds at 321.81 mph.
Jeg Sr. raced Top Fuel and Funny Car during his Hall of Fame career as a driver, but no other Coughlin family member had driven a nitro car since. Coughlin Jr. and his grandfather have a special relationship, and Jeg Sr. watched with pride as Troy Jr. made his runs Thursday.
“Pappy was pretty stoked,” Coughlin Jr. said. “He had never seen any of his family run a nitro car. He and I have talked about it a long time, and it really was an honor to have him there, not only as a grandfather but as a member of the history of the sport.”
Coughlin Jr. won the Rookie of the Year Award in the NHRA Pro Mod Series in 2015, but he’ll focus on winning the Super Comp and Super Gas national championships this year.
Plans for racing in Top Fuel are up in the air.
“Now we’ll see what our opportunities are to go race,” Coughlin Jr. said. “A majority of the 2016 season will be Sportsman racing with (crew chief) Justin Beaver and the JEGS.com guys. We’ll look at our opportunities for what lies ahead for us in the Top Fuel program.”