NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Returning Pro Stock ace Jeg Coughlin ready to drop the clutch on a full season

Jeg Coughlin Jr. emerged from retirement for two races in 2023, and he had no trouble slipping right back into competitive mode. Come winter, the Pro Stock veteran had pledged his heart to the class once more under the Elite Motorsports banner and with the support of Scag Power Equipment.
09 Jan 2024
Kelly Wade
 Jeg Coughlin

Last fall, the drag racing world saw five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. emerge from retirement for a two-race stint. The 65-time class winner slipped right back into competitive mode, and his obvious and immediate comfort behind the wheel elevated eyebrows and set heads to nodding. Come winter, as many suspected, Coughlin had pledged his heart and schedule to Pro Stock once more. Now, he's gearing up for a full season, backed by Scag Power Equipment and with championship horsepower provided by Elite Motorsports. 

Observing Coughlin's performance in Las Vegas and Pomona this past fall as he primed the red JHG Chevrolet for Erica Enders to pilot in the new year, it appeared as though he'd never left. He was a contender out of the gate and proved to be a valuable asset to the Elite team in the championship battle, despite having been out of the seat for three years. 

At the time, Coughlin said, "I'm definitely open to making a full-time return, but a lot of things would have to align for that to happen." 

Alignment came swiftly as he reached the semifinals in Las Vegas and the quarterfinals at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, throwing down killer reaction times and hitting the shift points all along the way. His smooth transition back into the class was noticed by critical parties, and a new picture began to take shape.

"I was at a point in my life that if something came together, I was 100% ready to go back into battle and race the NHRA series," said Coughlin. "Fast forward past those two races last year, and this program came together with Scag Power Equipment to support a Pro Stock car with my name on the door for 2024 and potentially for beyond. That's when reality set in. 

"When I stepped away at the end of 2020, for all intents and purposes, I did not have a plan to come back and run NHRA Pro Stock again. But I talked it over with my wife, Samantha, and little Carly [their daughter], and they were really excited to do it – as I was."

Coughlin, who raced with Elite from 2016 to 2020, kept in contact with team owner Richard Freeman since then. The two had been friends for some time before that, Coughlin said, and years ago they'd discussed the potential of a future partnership highlighting a brand outside of what they'd previously known. Coughlin piloted the yellow and black JEGS paint scheme for the better part of his career, but in 2024, he will race a strikingly different color with Scag's recognizable orange-toned Cat's Eye Gold and black. 

"About 20 years later, the conversations Richard and I had appear to be coming to fruition, and both of us are extremely excited," said Coughlin. "I think one of the positive things is that I've always been in an iconic color and with an iconic brand – I'm just transitioning into a new iconic brand and color. I'll have my own identity out there, which is great, and selfishly, it's something I probably needed. I'm ready to go race."

This week, Coughlin is touring the Scag Power Equipment headquarters and immersing himself in the culture and history of the brand. As part of the recently announced multicar factory team, Coughlin views his role as more than just driver – he is a representative of the brand in a particularly impactful moment, along with Top Fuel's Justin Ashley, Dave Richards and Tim Wilkerson's race team in Funny Car, and teammate Erica Enders in Pro Stock. 

"This is a first in my life," said Coughlin. "The super team means that I'll have teammates outside of the class of Pro Stock, and that's just another attribute bringing this to a new level of excitement for me. We have some lofty goals for this year: get the team established, hit the ground running, be competitive, and challenge for wins – but the ultimate goal is, without question, to be the first Mission Foods Pro Stock champion. 

"It's a tall order, but I'm very familiar with the background of the team, and I'm becoming more and more familiar with the level of competitiveness behind the Scag brand. I think we'll make a good strong run at it, and I'm extremely excited to put my hat back in the ring. I'm ready to compete."