Although the odds were stacked against him, Pro Stock driver Troy Coughlin Jr. managed to pull off the upset of the year against class leader Greg Anderson to help his Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders gain big ground in the 2021 championship fight.
Pulling out all the stops to chip away at Anderson’s 92-point advantage over second-ranked Enders, Coughlin strategically placed his JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro in the 16th and final qualifying position with the sole purpose of trying to topple Anderson, who had qualified on top of the field.
Despite having never beaten Anderson (0-6) in NHRA competition, along with the fact Anderson had won 54 straight first-round matchups against all competitors when starting race day from the No. 1 spot, Coughlin confidently rose to the occasion and pushed the reset button on the Camping World Drag Racing championship chase, beating Anderson on a holeshot by .0012 of a second, or about four inches.
“We did what we came here to do,” Coughlin said. “That was a huge round, no doubt, and racing a world champion like Greg Anderson with so much on the line definitely got the adrenaline going. We had a quick start and held on to win by a very close margin. It worked out perfectly.”
The win came at the starting line, in a sense, when Coughlin left .021 seconds ahead of Anderson. That gave Coughlin just enough of a lead to hold off Anderson at the other end, with Coughlin’s 6.668 at 204.45 mph just a smidge ahead of Anderson’s 6.648 at 205.85 mph.
After that huge round, Coughlin matched up with Deric Kramer, whom he beat with a 6.665 at 204.54 mph to Kramer’s 6.683 at 203.06 mph. That set up a semifinal date with Enders herself, who had cruised through her first two rounds. The teammates had a great battle for half the length of the track before Coughlin’s car went silent, handing Enders a trip to the finals.
“This team is a family and we all know how it works at this point in the season,” Coughlin said. “It happened the other way around in the past with the same teams involved so now we’ll take these results and head to Pomona to see how it ends.
“My guys — Mark Ingersoll, Kyle Bates, Eric Luzinski, Kelly Murphy and Steven Hurley — are the best in the business. I love them all like brothers. They always work hard and make great calls. They’re the best in the business. The team itself is the main ingredient.”
At the end of the day, Enders took runner-up honors and gained 60 points on Anderson. She is now 32 markers off first place.