Last season saw a jumpstart in Troy Coughlin Jr.’s Pro Stock career.

Coughlin finished a career-best fourth in the points standings thanks to two wins and three-runner-up finishes. He kept that momentum rolling into 2023 as he won the season-opening Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals Sunday.

Coughlin, driving the Performance Chevrolet Camaro, muscled past Mason McGaha in the finals.

Coughlin clocked a 6.637-second time at 208.71 mph to defeat McGaha’s 6.765-second 207.94 mph effort in Gainesville, Fla.

“I let the clutch out; I just thought, ‘Well, hold on, we can make it out of low gear here. Just get there,’ Coughlin said. “Try to just get, just get there. And it worked out.”

Sunday’s victory was Coughlin’s third career NHRA Pro Stock national event win in his fourth year in the class. He beat Larry Morgan, Deric Kramer, and Dallas Glenn before ousting McGaha.

The win was extra special for Coughlin because his grandfather Jeg was in attendance.

“It’s pretty surreal. It’s pretty cool,” Troy said about having his grandfather there for his win. “The man that pretty much started it all for us as far as the drag racing goes. To have him here on the property is, excuse my French, but it’s pretty badass. It’s pretty cool just to see him. He’s a legend. He’s a guy who started an iconic brand. An iconic brand with just such neat philosophy with family and excitement, and it’s just fun.

“When I was driving in here this morning, I thought when my dad texted me last night, he said, ‘How am I going to get him in here?’

“I’m thinking, ‘It’s easy. We’ll get him in here.’ I emailed him a pass, and I was like, ‘Man, the chief’s coming today.’ It just fired me up. It just added like a couple of degrees of timing in me.

“First couple rounds, didn’t show it, but the next couple, I picked it up a little bit. But it’s just really exciting; it’s an honor to have him here. He’s helped me tremendously. He’s a once to two times a week phone call, whether it be about business or racing or life. That guy’s just a really good man and I’m just extremely honored and lucky to have him in my life, and to have him here today is... Tomorrow I may have an even better answer.”
In the 19 Pro Stock events contested last season, Team Elite won 15 times, and team member Erica Enders won the world championship.

Coughlin has now made it 16 for the last 20 for Elite in his yellow and black Camaro. Coughlin also qualified No. 1 at the Gators with a 6.515-second effort at 212.29 mph. It was the third time he qualified No. 1 in the Pro Stock class.

“Well, at Elite Motorsports, it’s a little newer than the Jeg’s legacy. It doesn’t date back to 1960, but it’s really the same type of honor to me,” Coughlin said. “You look at Erica (Enders), she’s a five-time world champion, and you’re driving for a team that wins championships. So, they have that same demeanor. When they pull in the gates, they expect to dominate; they expect to win. And you pull in with that same attitude 100%. That’s exciting to me. I like that. It’s a great fit. It’s really neat if you like that type of competitive edge.”

Surprisingly, Coughlin was the only driver who had real success for Elite at the Gators, and he was happy to lead the way.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Coughlin said. “Turn four (win lights) on for our group. It’s a feather in our cap, and I think it’s a testament to them. It just shows that everybody pulls together and looks at our trials as stepping stones to as if we can keep going no matter what. We got one dog in the fight, and we can push through, and we can look at what errors we had, and we can look towards the future with these errors and build on them. And you know, look at the issues with the cars we had, and we could prevent those issues and look at the data and prevent them and get stronger.”

Troy took a moment to describe what it is like to be part of the winning family tradition of the Coughlins.

“I remember watching Jeg Jr. win all the time and Pappy (Jeg Sr.) being here,” Troy Jr. said. “He used to back him up from his burnouts, and dad (Troy Sr.) up from his burnouts, and Mike and John when they were in the trucks. So that was normal to me, and that’s what Elite is for me now. What the Coughlin Brothers Racing is. So that’s really exciting to me. A lot of my childhood, yeah, it comes rushing back to you when you see him coming up to you wanting to give you a big hug when you’re holding the Wally. It’s your whole childhood rushing back to you and there’s nothing like it. It’s hard to describe.”

Coughlin also loves the family feel of Elite Motorsports.

“That’s one big family, and that is the single coolest thing about it is everybody works together,” Coughlin said. “If one team’s out, they’re all working together. Everybody’s working together. And you’re never flustered because you’re never super rushed because everybody’s always helping each other. You’re always ready; everybody’s working together, and you’re ready to go. You’re never mentally rushed because you know everybody’s got it.

“Everybody’s got their position, and everybody knows each other’s roles and how to help each other and support each other. They mean it when they help each other too, which is really exciting. When everybody wins, everybody wins. It’s really exciting. It’s something to watch; it’s fun. It’s really a family team. It’s a lot like; it is truly the closest thing to my family team.”

One thing Troy was happy to talk about in his post-race press conference was the benefits of the sport.

“It’s an emotional sport, it’s a family sport, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “And in fact, if you have a car, you can take it to a local dragstrip and race it. However, you cannot take your car to your local NASCAR track or round track, and probably you cannot take it on that track. However, you can take it out there and race street legal and bracket race it. You can make little money, too, in the process. That’s what’s fun.”

Sometimes the Pro Stock class can be pretty predictable at NHRA national events, but that wasn’t the case at the Gators.

“There’s always those races where the track and the weather sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to make it out of gear,” Coughlin said. “But with the guys in the crew chief lounge, I have the most faith in the world. You know, you have so much trust in faith in Mark Ingersoll, and Tim Freeman, and Chase Freeman; he’s our newest crew chief. All the guys on my car, everybody in the engine shop. Gosh, there’s so many people at Elite Motorsports. There are so many new faces that have transitioned into roles that, heck, we’ve got guys coming from Kalitta Motorsports who are jumping in on Erica’s car. They’re doing a fantastic job, and it’s exciting.

That means we have awesome people training them. Showing them how to do this to these 500-cubic inch big block machines that are so precise and it’s hard to run these cars. It’s not very simple, let alone to drive.
“But to operate them, to work on them, to get them to function, to get them to be consistent. Ask Mark Ingersoll or Tim Freeman, or those guys, or Greg on how easy they are to tune and to be a crew chief, and you’ll get a fun answer.”

One thing that wasn’t lost on Coughlin was the overflowing crowd watching the action in the stands at the Gators.

“Well, we have a great sanctioning body for sure,” Coughlin said. “We’re very lucky. I felt a ton of love. What a great crowd response; it was sold out. I mentioned that in three or four interviews. I mean, the fans are always a blast here in Gainesville. What a great market. I’ve always had a blast, even when I ran the Top Fuel (dragster); it was always a lot of fun to mingle with the fans here. I can’t wait to come back. I wish we ran two times here, and I want to come back tomorrow, personally. I’m excited as heck, and I’m really happy with the change (to start the season in Gainesville). It was a great decision and really, really happy that it sold out and I had a blast.”

Mar 13th 2023 Competition Plus

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