Career With Turns

Cody Coughlin talks with the media at Chicagoland Speedway. [Russ Lake Photo]

Cody Coughlin talks with the media at Chicagoland Speedway after winning the pole for the ARCA race. [Russ Lake Photo]

As a kid Cody Coughlin looked ahead to racing in the NHRA, has now moved to ARCA, but hopes that the next acronym on his resume will be NASCAR.

The 19-year-old Coughlin, a third-generation driver from a legendary Hall of Fame drag racing family, captured the pole for Saturday’s SCOTT 150 ARCA Racing Series event at Chicagoland Speedway in his Venturini Motorsports-prepared JEGS Toyota.

But Coughlin’s name should be familiar to thousands of straight-line fans who remember family patriarch Grandpa Jeg Coughlin Sr. and Uncle Jeg Jr. as well as Cody’s father John Coughlin; all of whom have made the family company, JEGS, a name synonymous with aftermarket performance parts for cars, trucks and other vehicles.

For young Cody, racing began in Quarter Midgets in 2008-09, progressed to ASA and CRA Late Models and finally moved to ARCA in 2014-15 with some NASCAR Truck Series events on the 2015 horizon.

“I decided to go in a different direction than my dad,” Coughlin admitted when asked about switching to oval tracks rather than following his family’s drag racing tradition. “I tried it (drag racing) a little bit when I was younger, but I always enjoyed watching the NASCAR guys on TV and that’s the path I’m following now and I’m working hard to make progress in my career.”

His father John hasn’t held a grudge as his son veered away from drag cars and said he’d rather turn left. Dad surrounded Cody with some mentors who have helped to keep his oval career on a straight path. John has assembled a talented group of racing veterans including Scott Wimmer, Kevin Hamlin and Bob Dillner to help guide Coughlin’s career toward NASCAR.

“I’m thankful to be with an organization like Joe Gibbs as a development driver and with Venturini Motorsports. They’re both grooming me because, obviously, I’m still pretty new at this,” admitted the Ohio native who competed in eleven ARCA races last year, finishing the season with three top-five’s and eight top-ten’s. “I want to work my way up and try to race as much as we can, especially on speedways.”

So far in 2015 ARCA competition Coughlin has “worked his way up” by starting in the front row at Daytona in February (finished fourth), was runner-up at Talladega after starting on the pole and in his first career start on a road course finished sixth at New Jersey Motorsports Park.

Tonight at Chicagoland Coughlin started on the pole and battled Will Kimmel and Daniel Suarez early in the race but spun on Lap 13 after his JEGS Toyota had a “that’s racing” get together with Matt Tifft’s Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet. He was forced to pit several times for repairs, finally going behind the wall for good on Lap 19; perhaps a lesson learned.

He’ll race some more Super Late Models this season along with the ARCA Series and possibly two or three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series beginning at Kentucky in July.

But why he gave up the rush of four-second runs on the strip for 200 laps on a speedway still has some scratching their heads. In Cody’s mind the answer is simple: “When I was sitting in the car longer than I was racing, I decided to go in a different direction.”

That decision looks better with every race.

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