Navigating left turns never really came easy for Cody Coughlin. As part of a family that established itself in drag racing, Coughlin may have been naturally predisposed to going in a straight line.
Coughlin’s grandfather, Jeg, founded Team JEGS, which oversees a drag-racing team and an auto-performance equipment distribution company. His uncle, Jeg, Jr., is a five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion.
But Cody Coughlin found a strange thrill in driving in a car for longer than six seconds.
“I guess you could say that I’m pretty good on the straightaways,” Coughlin said, grinning. “But that’s in my blood. When it comes time to turn, that’s where the struggle was a little bit, when I first started.”
Coughlin, 18, is in his first season driving in the ARCA Racing Series and will compete today in the Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway. The Delaware, Ohio, native is a developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and is currently running 12 races in the ARCA series with Venturini Motorsports.
“It’s been a pretty good learning experience for me,” Coughlin said. “Watching heroes of mine like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and, obviously, all my teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s an inspiration to me.”
Coughlin made his ARCA debut this season after winning the JEGS/Champion Racing Series All-Star Tour Championship in 2013 — only a few years after he began driving quarter-midget cars — and he knew that as a driver, he was a late-bloomer, as quarter-midget drivers typically aren’t older than 16. That forced a move to driving late-model cars when he was 15, yet even then, Coughlin took time to test in stock cars before he knew and was confident enough to begin competing.
“Once we began winning and getting championships, we decided to partner up with ARCA,” Coughlin said. “It’s a dream come true to work with organizations like Joe Gibbs Racing and Venturini Motorsports. I have a really good opportunity to run up front and win races.”
He drives a car that’s about 1,000 pounds heavier and has about 200 more horsepower than the late-model car he drove last season, which he explained means driving with more finesse.
“We’ve just been progressing every year that I’ve been on the round track,” Coughlin said. “We’ve got a pretty good formula.”
Coughlin has made four ARCA starts this season; he finished 13th in March at the Lucas Oil 200 in Mobile, Ala., then was ninth in the Federated Auto Parts 200 in April in Salem, Ind. Coughlin was sixth in the Menards 200 at Toledo Speedway and finished ninth last Saturday in the Pocono ARCA 200, his first superspeedway start at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
“Like any new thing, it’s a learning curve,” Coughlin said. “I’m still kind of getting used to the type of car, but we were really strong at Mobile in our first race. We struggled a little bit at Salem and made the top 10, so I think there’s a ton of potential in our car. I’m really looking forward to getting out and racing.”