One of the most powerful and influential brands in motorsports is right here in our own back yard. You've heard the radio commercial with the deep and memorable voice that just says, "JEEEEGSS." Now you can see that familiar yellow and black JEGS decal on everything from the 2007 NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson car to the bumper of the car ahead of you on 270. Hold tight as we rocket through an amazing year that’s been stamped like so many before with the Coughlin name.
In 1997, Jeg Coughlin, Jr. became the first driver in history to win NHRA national events in four separate competition classes (Super Stock, Competition Eliminator, Super Gas & Pro Stock) in a single season.
Jeg won his first race behind the wheel of a Competition Eliminator car at the Fram Nationals. His learning curve developed quickly in Comp and he used this class as a steppingstone into the professional ranks.
In only his second race behind the wheel of a 1300+ horsepower Pro Stock car, he walked away with his first professional victory. His win at the '97 Matco Tools SuperNationals etched his name in the NHRA record books.
Making a Name
"What kind of name is 'Jeg'?" It's been asked countless times and will no doubt be asked again and again.
When Jeg, Sr. was growing up, he had a full head of red hair. His mother, Genevieve (affectionately referred to as simply "GaGa") remembers, "His father, Ed, and I didn't want anyone to call Jeg “red” or “big red” or “carrot top,” so we came up with the name 'Jeg'." The "J" came from the first letter in James, Jeg Sr.'s middle name, the "E" from his father Edward and the "G" from Genevieve.
Little did Edward and Genevieve know, the name they came up with would end up as one of the most recognized names in the automotive after-market performance industry. Visit any NHRA event around the country and you're sure to hear fans mimicking the familiar deep-toned "JEEEEGS" sound effect from their popular broadcast commercials.
Jeg Coughlin Sr.
More widely known for building JEGS Mail Order from the ground up into one of the high performance parts industry's largest entities, Jeg Coughlin Sr. was also a successful drag racer in his day, winning four Div. 3 championships in Pro Comp (1976) and Top Fuel (1977, 1978, and 1980) to highlight an impressive quarter-mile career. Jeg Sr. won 11 divisional races in the days before a full-time professional circuit was formed, racing in the sport's premier class -- Top Fuel -- as well as Pro Comp and Super Eliminator. It's also safe to say that Jeg Sr. had a hand in many of his four sons’ drag racing successes as he often accompanies his boys to the racetrack to offer tuning tips and sage driving advice.
DOB: Jan. 20, 1963
Racecars: JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt Super Stock entry, JEGS.com Top Dragster entry
Latest news: Won Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Div. 3 Top Dragster championship.
Career achievements: Coughlin's 2007 Top Dragster championship was his third as he also claimed back-to-back Div. 3 championships in Super Gas in 1995-'96; Coughlin was second in the final Div. 3 Super Stock points in '07, nearly pulling off an impressive double; Won four divisional events en route to the '07 title; Has five national event wins in NHRA competition, including two in the Pro Stock Truck class; Has 11 Divisional wins, winning in five of seven different divisions; Enjoys competing in many different classes, winning his hometown race -- the Pontiac Nationals at National Trial Raceway -- three times in three different classes. Owns several cars that compete in a variety of Sportsman classes.
DOB: June 30, 1964
Racecar: JEGS Mail Order Pontiac GTO Pro Mod entry
Latest news: Debuted a twin-turbo Pontiac GTO racecar in the AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge.
Career achievements: Recorded career-best one win and runner-up four times in Pro Street / National Muscle Car Association Series in 2006; Collected $50,000 for winning 2005 North vs. South Fastest Street Car Big Dog Shootout at Piedmont Dragway in Greensboro, N.C., which is widely recognized as the toughest level of streetcar racing in the country; Won AMS Pro Mod Challenge event at Englishtown, N.J., in 2005; Has two wins in 10 final rounds in Pro Stock category; Scored $50,000 for winning the Winston Showdown in 2000; Earned membership in the ultra-exclusive Holley Six-Second Pro Stock Club in 1997; First Super Comp racer in history to top 180 mph.
DOB: Jan. 23, 1966
Racecars: JEGS Mail Order Chevrolet Cobalt Top Sportsman entry
Latest news: Won Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Div. 3 Top Sportsman championship
Career achievements: Culminated one of his best season's ever in 2007 by winning the Div. 3 championship in the newly created Top Sportsman category; His three victories kept him in the '07 points lead for most of the season and he ended with the highest points total of any class winner; Has 11 NHRA national event wins; Won six national events in the Pro Stock Truck class, including the 1999 and 2001 U.S. Nationals -- drag racing's most prestigious event -- and the 2001 Winston Finals, the last race in class history; Has five divisional wins in Super Comp.
Jeg Coughlin Jr.
DOB: June 23, 1970
Racecar: JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Stock entry
Latest news: Won 2007 POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock World Championships. Captured 51st national event win in November to move into ninth on the all-time list. One of just 12 drivers in history with 50 or more national event wins.
Career achievements: Has won three Pro Stock titles (2000, 2002, and 2007) to go with one Super Gas championship (1992); Has 38 Pro Stock victories in 60 career final-round appearances; Has 13 national event wins in various Sportsman categories in 18 final-round appearances; Won Super Stock Hemi Challenge in 2004; Two-time winner of Holley Dominator Duel (1999, 2000); Named NHRA Rookie of the Year in 1998; Only racer to win national events in four separate categories -- Stock, Super Stock, Competition Eliminator, and Super Gas -- in the same year (1997).
There's a big reason why Delaware-based JEGS Mail Order High Performance Parts has become a household name across the country. Meet Scott "Woody" Woodruff, the energetic and creative professional behind the scenes who is helping spread the JEGS word. He also has been family-friends with the Coughlins since he was in 6th grade in Dublin. Nobody knows more about what happens and how it happens with JEGS than Woodruff—unless your last name is Coughlin.
In an attempt to shed light on the culture of JEGS and excitement they bring to the world, we were able to sit and discuss with Woody their most recent claim to fame. Read on and experience the day Jeg Jr. won his third Pro Stock Championship.
When the pressure is on the line, you have to make the most of it. You can't control it, so you need to enjoy it. It was the last race of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season. Jeg was one of three drivers who had a chance to win the championship in Pro Stock and we were coming off of a runner-up finish the week before. Being in the hunt for a championship is nothing new for us. The Coughlin family has scored over 100 wins in NHRA competition, which has led to a division championship 12 times over in addition to three NHRA championships competing as a family.
That Saturday night, I was at the track visiting teams after qualifying was over. Jeg and some friends decided to go bowling and grab something to eat. Jeg Sr., Nicky Morse and Uncle Ronnie went out to eat. After I was done making all of my team visits, I returned to our pit area and parked my scooter. I went in the coach, grabbed a Bud Light and sat by myself thinking about how I saw things unfolding the next day (race day). I had to be prepared and have a game plan regarding media. The whole time, I had the mindset we were going to win. Jeg is hands down the best driver when pressure’s pressure is on the line. We have a great car, team and our horsepower is solid.
I decided to write Jeg a note and leave it in his bedroom in the coach. I wrote: "Let's have fun tomorrow! No matter what happens, you are a champion in every sense of the word." I got up, locked the coach and headed back to the hotel to grab something to eat.
When I walked into the restaurant, I ran into Pro Stock Bike rider Steve Johnson and Terry Vance who were finishing up dinner. They asked me to sit down with them, so I ordered a Bud Light and looked at the menu. After awhile, Terry got up and said, "Good luck tomorrow." No sooner did Terry walk away then Steve asked me, "So what do you really think is going to happen tomorrow?" Without hesitation, I said, "We are going to win." Steve then asked, "What's going to happen?" I told him, "Greg is going to get beat first round and Dave is going to choke." Steve just said, "Wow!"
Now, it’s only fair to give a little background here. Greg Anderson was the No. 1 qualifier and would line up next to the No. 16 guy. Justin Humphreys was No. 16 that weekend. That meant the fastest was running against the slowest. Dave Connolly is a teammate of Jeg's and had won five straight events and was working on the sixth, until Jeg took him out the weekend before.
When I woke up the next morning, I replayed everything in my head again and wrote down a punch list of what I needed to do. I met Jeg Sr. downstairs for breakfast and we headed over to Bravo Burger. This is our favorite place to eat breakfast. They have the best pastrami sandwiches and their breakfast food is killer. When we sat down, Jeg Sr. says, "Well, here we are again." That comment had two meanings: the restaurant and another championship within our reach. From that point we talked about keeping the team calm and focused. Most of the guys on the team had never been in this situation.
When we got to the track and in our pit area, the two of us made our rounds and talked to all the crew members. The conversation was fun-filled and got everyone smiling and laughing—kind of an icebreaker type of deal.
I then got on my scooter and headed out on my morning rounds. The first stop was the TV compound to talk to the talent and producers of ESPN. I then went into one of the production trailers to review our in-car camera footage and make changes. From there I headed into the media room in the tower. I made my rounds with the writers and announcers. Finally, I went back to our pit area; I made it just in time for the warm up of the car. This always gets me fired up on race day.
I also checked in with Chef Nicky and the other team members. On race days, we have a small private breakfast in Jeg's coach that Nicky prepares… just Jeg Sr., Jeg Jr., Nicky, myself and our special guests (kids, wives or girlfriends). I was late and everyone else was already eating. Nicky had been calling my mobile telling me "It's only hot once!" This was the first time I saw Jeg Jr. that morning and he said, "Thanks a lot for the note." I told Nicky I was going to pass on breakfast…little did he know, I already ate.
I then took off on foot and stopped by a bunch of team pit areas. After about an hour, I returned to our pit area in time to walk with Jeg to the pre-race ceremony. After the pre-race ended and I watched the first Top Fuel car make a pass, I headed back to our pit area to spend some time with the team.
First round we were one of the last pairs. Greg and Justin lined up for their first round match up. Justin leaves the starting line with a huge advantage and turns on the win light. The crowd went nuts…then Dave Connolly pulls to the line against his opponent and left -.004 seconds and turned the red light on giving the win to the car in the other lane. This put everything on the line: Jeg had to win the first round to have a shot to win the championship or Greg was the champion. Jeg won round one and advanced to the second round.
Now, if Jeg were to win the second round against Richie Stevens, he would be the champion. If not, it would go to Greg. The crowd was on their feet and every camera in the place was on us. With all of the pressure on the line, Jeg won. We all went nuts on the starting line when the win light came on. It was a huge moment and one that I will always remember.
After the celebration on the starting line, I took off down to the top end. I pulled over and just watched everything—Jeg holding the championship trophy... interviews… pictures. I walked up to him and put my hands in the air and said, "You’re the f#*king man!"
Putting any perceived jinxes aside, I actually wrote the outline of a story of Jeg winning the championship before it happened, because I knew we'd need to get that information out fast, while at the same time satisfying all the things that would be going on at the track. I'm glad I did it that way because I barely had time to push the send button to my national media e-mail list in between the various ceremonies and press conferences we had once he actually got the job done in the quarterfinals.
It was non-stop from there, and by the time I took Jeg back to the pressroom at the end of the day, I figured I had typed at least a couple thousand words.
The effort was well worth it as we were featured in most of the newspapers, websites, and newswires across the country. We even had the message of Jeg clinching the title on one of those big TVs in Times Square, just a few minutes after it happened. Again, I had done the groundwork for that in advance and merely needed to let the people at Reuters know what had happened.
With the Internet and live TV coverage, the demand for news is immediate. You almost need to be able to get a press release out before the car's car has been towed back to the pits these days. It's exhausting at times, but always very exciting.
On any given weekend, there are thousands of E.T. Bracket racers active at drag strips all over North America. Designed as an affordable way for just about anyone to experience the thrill of NHRA drag racing, E.T. Brackets allow competitors in virtually any type of vehicle to be competitive by choosing their own dial-in. Since bracket racing uses handicap starts and the breakout rule is enforced, driver skill, rather than mechanical know-how is essential for success.
As a general rule, E.T. brackets are sub-divided into several classes, which are determined by vehicle elapsed times. At E.T. events, it is not uncommon to see everything from a 7-second gas dragster to a street legal car, van or SUV in competition. At many facilities, there are even separate classes for motorcycles, snowmobiles, and all terrain vehicles. The rules for E.T. racing vary widely from track to track as some permit the use of electronic devices such as throttle stops and delay boxes and some do not. For the most part, any vehicle that can pass a simple safety inspection is eligible to compete in E.T. Bracket events.
Currently, there are more than 150 NHRA member tracks across North America and virtually all of them offer some form of E.T. bracket competition on a regular basis, providing ample opportunities for fans to become participants.
Thanks to the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League, adults aren’t the only ones who are able to experience the thrill of NHRA Championship Drag Racing. Formed in 1992 by late Old Bridge Township Raceway Park track operator Vinny Napp, the Jr. Drag Racing League is a family-oriented eliminator that features half-scale dragsters, which are driven by kids from 8 to 18.
Powered by single-cylinder 5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engines, a typical Jr. Dragster can cover an eighth-mile course at speeds approaching 70-mph. Some engine modifications are allowed, though all Jr. Dragster competitors are restricted to eighth-mile elapsed times of 7.90-seconds and slower. The format for the Jr. Drag Racing League is similar to that of E.T. Bracket racing in that competitors may choose their own dial-in for each handicap start. Some tracks also offer classes similar to Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street, where competitors compete on a fixed index. Many of today’s best sportsman and professional racers began their careers racing in Jr. Dragsters.
Each year, NHRA hosts two major events for Jr. Drag Racing League competitors from all over the country. In 2005, the Eastern Conference Jr. Drag Racing League Finals will be held at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., while the Western Conference Finals will be held at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colo. The third Coughlin generation will break their teeth in the Jr. Dragster class this year. Troy Jr. has raced in this class and is expected to get behind the wheel of one of the house cars in 2008.
Fans of American Muscle Cars will almost certainly take a liking to Super Stock, which features specially modified versions of classic street machines including classic Camaros, Mustangs, Hemi Barracudas and other vintage examples of Detroit iron. The class also features a wide variety of newer vehicles, which are popular choices for racers in Super Stock’s GT classes, and feature vintage engines in modern-day vehicles.
Super Stock cars are classified using a complex system that divides the manufacturer’s advertised horsepower by the car’s factory shipping weight. Each individual class is then assigned an index, which represents what a well-built, well-maintained car should run. In order to insure fair competition, NHRA constantly monitors the performance of each combination and makes horsepower and index adjustments when necessary. Presently, there are 85 different classes in Super Stock, allowing for a virtually infinite number of vehicle and engine combinations.
Strict rules apply to Super Stock engines, which must use factory matching blocks, cylinder heads, and carburetors. Engine modifications are limited to the addition of after-market intake manifolds, exhaust headers, and valve train components. Mildly ported cylinder heads are also permitted. Body modifications, including the addition of spoilers, wings, and non-factory air scoops, are not permitted on traditional Super Stock entries though they may be legal in some of the Modified classes which are also incorporated into Super Stock. All Super Stock entries must be equipped with a full factory interior and retain all original window glass, trim pieces, bumpers, and lights. Super Stock racers compete on a handicap start and the breakout rule is enforced, except when two cars in the same class are racing in which case.
At selected events, Super Stock drivers also compete in class eliminations, where drivers in each class compete for individual honors.
New for 2007 is the Top Dragster class. A close relative of Top Sportsman, Top Dragster is essentially a bracket race for fast dragsters. The dial-in and breakout rules are enforced, and the quickest 32 drivers during qualifying are eligible to return for final eliminations. Though many Top Dragster entries resemble Super Comp cars, they are often much quicker, running in the low six second zone at well over 200-mph in many cases.
Top Dragster competitors have few restrictions as far as the rules go. Engine size is unlimited, and superchargers, turbochargers, and nitrous oxide are permitted. Though the overwhelming majority of the cars in Top Dragster will be rear-engine dragsters, the class is also open to center-steer roadster and altered-type vehicles.
As in Top Sportsman, delay boxes, air shifters, and electronic timers are all permitted in Top Dragster.
The fairly recent addition to the NHRA program, Top Sportsman features many similarities to both Pro Stock and E.T. bracket racing. Using the same format at bracket racing, where each competitor chooses his or her dial-in, and the breakout rule is enforced, Top Sportsman is reserved for full-bodied cars, which are capable of running in the seven-second zone. In most Top Sportsman events, only the quickest 32-drivers will qualify for final eliminations, which place an additional premium on performance. Top Sportsman competitors must run in the 7-second range and many of the top qualifiers can run deep into the sixes at speeds of over 200-mph.
Mechanically, there are few limitations on Top Sportsman cars. Engine size is unlimited and superchargers, nitrous oxide, and turbochargers are permitted. Competitors can choose between gasoline and racing alcohol for fuel, but nitromethane is prohibited. Both automatic and planetary-type transmissions are used.
Much like the cars that compete in Super Comp, Super Gas, and E.T. racing, Top Sportsman cars feature a variety of electronic aids such as delay boxes and air shifters, which help them, stay consistent from run to run. Many of the cars that currently compete in Top Sportsman were formerly Pro Stock, Pro Mod, or Competition Eliminator cars.
On the surface, NHRA Pro Stock cars appear to closely resemble production-based showroom vehicles, but underneath the brightly colored sheet metal, they are in fact, all out racecars capable of 6.5-second quarter-mile elapsed times and speeds of over 210-mph. The body styles most often found in Pro Stock includes the current model Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Cobalt, Ford Escort, and Dodge Stratus. In order to maintain a stock appearance, aerodynamic modifications in Pro Stock are limited to a single 14-inch rear spoiler, and a hood scoop, which not only feeds additional air into the massive twin four-barrel carburetors, but is necessary for engine clearance.
Unlike Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which use exotic nitromethane fuel, superchargers, and fuel injection, Pro Stock entries must burn high octane racing gasoline and are limited to a pair of four-barrel carburetors. Pro Stock engines can also be no larger than 500-cid, and each car can weigh no less than 2,350 pounds, with driver. A competitive Pro Stock engine produces more than 1,350 horsepower and revs to more than 10,500 rpm.
The technology and the attention to detail that goes into building a state-of-the-art Pro Stock engine is virtually unmatched in all of motor sports. It can take hundreds of hours to prepare a single set of cylinder heads or an intake manifold and most successful Pro Stock teams devote the majority of their resources to the area of engine development. Although lightweight engine components and exotic metals are banned, virtually anything else is legal in a Pro Stock engine as long as it maintains its original two-valve per cylinder configuration and does not exceed the 500-cubic inch maximum.
Once described as Pro Stock cars on steroids, Pro Mod has become a fan favorite at NHRA events over the past few seasons. Pro Mod cars are full-bodied, left-hand driver vehicles which are very loosely based on production models. Colorfully painted and wholly unpredictable, the Pro Mod class is reminiscent of the early days of Funny Car racing.
Pro Mod’s appeal stems from the wide variety of body styles that are favored by competitors. Those bodies include everything from ’53 Studebakers to ’07 Corvettes and virtually everything in between. Some of the other popular models include the ’63 Corvette, ’57 Chevy, ’66 Mustang, and ’69 Camaro. Since there are few rules governing aerodynamic enhancements, Pro Mod cars often feature radical body modifications including stretched wheelbases and oversized rear spoilers. Under the current rules, Pro Mod engines can be either supercharged, turbocharged, or utilize nitrous oxide, though most competitors prefer to run a supercharged combination, which is fueled by methanol. Similar to the power plants found in Top Alcohol Funny Cars, a competitive Pro Mod engine can produce in excess of 2,700 horsepower. Most Pro Mod racers use a three-speed planetary-type transmission and an adjustable multi-disc clutch, which helps them tune the car to suit track conditions.
Thanks to a liberal rules package that allows unlimited cubic inch engine for nitrous oxide engines and few restrictions on supercharger overdrive, Pro Mod cars are hovering near the five-second zone at most events.