Team Kalitta’s SealMaster Top Fuel machine is far from the first dragster that Troy Coughlin Jr. has found himself in, but the third-generation driver will be the first to admit that he’s never handled something quite like this.
“I’m completely humbled,” said the 26-year-old Ohio native following three days of testing at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix. “It’s just so fast. Everything comes at you so quickly in the seat. It’s much more intense than I ever imagined. This is one aggressive racecar, and it never stops accelerating during the run. It’s a beast, and it’s also very, very cool.”
Coughlin set a best time of 3.763 at 317.42 mph during the Phoenix test, and admits that it may take him a few weeks to get fully up to speed.
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“Up until now, the quickest car I had driven was my Pro Mod Corvette and, even though that was a handful to drive, I picked it up fairly quickly,” said Coughlin. “I think the difference in taking on that challenge was that I had been around my dad’s team for a couple years, watching everything they do in preparing the car and what my dad did in the driver’s seat.
“We really didn’t get serious about going Top Fuel racing until the latter part of last year so I’ve had maybe six months to soak up as much as possible. I feel like I’m way behind.
“This thing will take me 40-50 runs ’til I’m even close to feeling somewhat in control.”
Troy will be the first Coughlin to compete in NHRA’s Top Fuel ranks since his grandfather Jeg Coughlin, Sr., who was winning races back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
“I just want to do the best I can and help the crew guys as much as possible,” added Coughlin. “They’ve been so cool to me, very supportive and positive. And I can say I really enjoy watching these guys work. It was funny because they came into the test saying, ‘Welcome to Hell Week.’ I thought it was a joke but watching what they do to prepare this SealMaster/Toyota dragster for a run is crazy. No wonder they are so worn out.
“Pomona is a historic race and the best thing I can do is limit my rookie mistakes. To say I’m excited doesn’t come close to describing how I feel. This is all dream-come-true stuff for me and I’m going to enjoy every moment.”
Coughlin Jr. will be teammates with Doug Kalitta at Kalitta Motorsports in the Top Fuel class this season, while J.R. Todd moves over to replace Del Worsham behind the wheel of the team’s DHL Funny Car. Worsham, meanwhile, will be competing in a Toyota Camry Funny Car fielded by Worsham Racing.