Jeg Coughlin Jr. just couldn’t stay away.
The five-time drag racing series champion, who won four series championships as a Pro Stock driver, announced today his plans to run a Dodge Avenger squelching rumors of a possible return with Chevrolet. The announcement came during the Specialty Equipment Market Association [SEMA] event in Las Vegas.
“There were a couple of reasons which inspired me to come back,” Coughlin said. “In putting together a relationship and business together with Nick Ferri and Roy Simmons [JNB Racing], and I think it’s going to be an outstanding business for us and provides an excellent opportunity for me to race a car out of that shop. The association with Mopar and Dodge is exciting too. The excitement and drive within this group is second to none and we haven’t hit the track yet.”
The announcement marks a return to the Pro Stock class by Coughlin after a one-year hiatus. It’s also a return to the Mopar fold for the 40-year-old Delaware, Ohio native, who has a long history with the brand. Jeg Jr. captured the 2004 U.S. Nationals Mopar HEMI® Challenge event win driving a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda, raced a Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Pro Stock car during the 2005 NHRA season and currently owns and occasionally competes in Sportsman events in a Mopar Challenger Drag Pak.
Coughlin admitted when he left the Pro Stock division at the end of 2010 he wasn't sure when or if he’d return again.
“I really honestly didn’t know,” Coughlin admitted. “I am really, honestly content in my life and where I am right now, and where I am with the sport. It’s a sport you can enjoy your entire life. The good Lord’s willing I will race something until they say I’m done.”
Next season Coughlin will climb behind the wheel of a Dodge Avenger adorned in the traditional Jegs Mail Order yellow and black livery but with Mopar blue noticeably present.
Sources close to the situation confirmed Coughlin had originally planned his return in a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro but a growing relationship with Mopar and the aforementioned enthusiasm inspired him to reconsider his decision.
“I’ve had a relationship with [Mopar Motorsports Director] Dale Aldo for many years now and he helped me quite a bit with our Drag Pak program,” said Coughlin. “I’ve driven Super Stock Hemis over the years and drove a Mopar with Don Schumacher. The Camaro would have been a logical path. Over the winter, Dale and I talked to Pro Stock.
“I had offers to come drive. I had teams that wanted me to help fund a team and drive it. The more we talked with the people at Mopar the more realized the potential available with going this route.”
Coughlin joins Allen Johnson as an officially factory-sponsored driver. The newly-formed JNR Racing, Coughlin’s in-house engine shop, will supply the horsepower for the team.
Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group’s service, parts and customer-care brand, believes signing Coughlin to an exclusive multi-year contract was a major free agent acquisition.
“His track record speaks for itself,” Gorlier said f Coughlin. “He is a champion and we’ve been working with him for a year as part of our Drag Pak Challenger Stock program. He is a perfect fit for our program.”
A big factor in the Coughlin signing was Aldo.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jeg Coughlin and Mopar, and just felt the perfect fit would be to put them both together,” Coughlin said. “I was thrilled that we were able to seal this deal.”
Gorlier said the Coughlin and Johnson teams will work as two separate teams serving the Mopar brand. The two teams working together will be a natural extension of the company which supported drag racing through the lean financial times of the auto manufacturing crisis of the last decade.
“I think what we are always trying to do is have a close relationship with the teams and drivers,” said Gorlier. “The team we have here eat, sleep and drink NHRA every minute of their life.”
Coughlin admittedly is ready to show his allegiance to the brand and just because they are a new start-up team, they are far from being considered rookies.
“This might be cleanest starts we’ve had since I started racing Pro Stock,” Coughlin said. “We’ve literally started with nothing. No transporter … not one tool. No engine. No car. I mean nothing. The opportunity to start with 100-percent equipment and 100-percent fresh minds I think will be a benefit to us right now.”