Defending JEGS/CRA All-Star Tour champion Cody Coughlin added another notch to his growing résumé Monday, as he recorded his first career Super Late Model victory with an impressive wire-to-wire triumph at Winchester Speedway (IN), one of the most prestigious tracks in the country.
Coughlin seemed to be knocking on the door of such a breakthrough in recent months, coupling his solid ARCA Racing Series rookie season with finishes of 7th in the Winchester 400 last year and a runner-up finish in the Bud St. Amant Memorial at Columbus just a few weeks ago. To fulfill his dreams at Winchester meant a lot to the eighteen-year-old Team JEGS driver.
“This is so exciting,” said Coughlin moments after climbing out of his racecar, “Everyone on the Team JEGS car works so hard. They put up with me (laughing) and it’s awesome to be able to get them the win.”
The ARCA/CRA Super Series had been on the grounds since Saturday, practicing their cars in preparations for time trials Sunday. Anderson Bowen was the fastest qualifier at the facility Sunday afternoon and twenty-two teams reassembled Monday in front of a healthy Labor Day crowd.
Rick Turner, by virtue of the invert, started on the inside of row one with Coughlin on his outside. Coughlin got the initial jump on Turner into turn one and they would run 1-2 for the rest of the 100-lap distance on a hot September afternoon. Right off the bat, the leaders saw some strong challengers fall out immediately as Bowen broke an A-frame on his racecar and crashed, collecting Nick Gullatta and Terry Fisher Jr. in his wake.
That would be the theme for the rest of the race: Veteran favorites for the win falling by the wayside as Coughlin proved to be unflappable up front. Jeff Fultz had begun to make his way forward before a bizarre incident at the halfway point saw his right front wheel assembly leaving the race car and much of the right side sheet metal with it. Winchester stalwarts Eddie Van Meter and Tommy St. John showed muscle before mechanical gremlins did them in. Point leaders Travis Braden and Ross Kenseth had multiple issues throughout the day and never seriously challenged for the win. All-time series win leader Scott Hantz also had to stop multiple times with mechanical woes, and by the time his car was up to full song it was too late to mount a serious charge. And lastly and perhaps most surprisingly was Daniel Hemric, the visiting Super Late Model star who never found a rhythm in the race before dropping out late.
As others around him made mistakes, Coughlin held up his end of a winning bargain, racing 100 perfect green-flag laps. He ran his line, never touched the wall, and saved his tires as much as possible in the lead. Turner, looking to break a 100-race winless streak in the series, stayed in his mirror for much of the race. But as it came down to its conclusion, Coughlin calmly and smoothly drove away from Turner and won by two seconds at the stripe.
“Man, Rick was strong today,” noted Coughlin, “every single restart he was right there with me. We had to work hard for that one.”
Turner, for his part, was happy enough to play the runner-up Monday; easily the best run of what has been a fairly dismal season. He is now gearing up for the Winchester 400 in a month’s time, a race he has wanted so badly to win after 20 years of trying.
“Cody is a great racer and he’s definitely got some great equipment,” Turner said with a chuckle, “so I knew I was going to have put some old-school, veteran moves on him. At first, I wanted to just rattle his chains a little bit. I could see, when I was pushing him, him starting to run higher and higher. But I tried too hard, too soon, and I lost the back end of the car there at the end.”
“I really, really wanted to win. But we’ll be ready for the 400, I guarantee.”
Scott Hantz wound up making a late charge to secure third. Matt Hall was fourth – a career best finish – and points leader Travis Braden wound out the top-five. It was a stressful weekend for Braden, breaking a motor in qualifying yesterday and changing out the motor in the wee hours of the morning. The race was rough for Braden too as a number of scrapes with Kenseth and St. John left him with a right rear quarter panel caved in. Yet the team preserved to a fifth place finish, his eighth consecutive top-five on the tour.
“We had a handful both with the car and a number of drivers here today”, commented Braden. “I don’t know if we had a fifth place car, but I gave it all I had. They [the team] gave it all they had, changing out the motor last night, and I really wanted to win it for them. But this still feels like a win after all we went through.”
Braden unofficially extended his points lead to 22 points on Kenseth as the ARCA/CRA Super Series next heads to Kil-Kare Speedway in Ohio on September 14th.
ARCA/CRA Super Series World Stock Car Festival 100 Results(powered by 51's Third Turn)
| 1||2||1||Cody Coughlin||100||100|
| 2||1||26||Rick Turner||100||0|
| 3||4||72H||Scott Hantz||100||0|
| 4||8||04||Matt Hall||100||0|
| 5||14||01||Travis Braden||100||0|
| 6||9||51||Brandon Oakley||100||0|
| 7||7||77||Ross Kenseth||99||0|
| 8||6||28||Ali Kern||99||0|
| 9||20||33||Wes Griffith||99||0|
| 10||22||1S||Jon Beach||99||0|
| 11||21||72||Thomas Woodin||99||0|
| 12||16||29S||Tommy St. John||79||0|
| 13||3||98||Daniel Hemric||76||0|
| 14||17||7||Paul Shafer, Jr.||76||0|
| 15||11||68||Landon Cling||67||0|
| 16||18||54||Jeff Fultz||64||0|
| 17||19||23||Eddie Van Meter||660||0|
| 18||12||99||J.J. Haley||43||0|
| 19||5||29||Anderson Bowen||40||0|
| 20||10||81||Terry Fisher, Jr.||1||0|
| 21||13||131||Nick Gullatta||1||0|
| 22||15||9||Brandon Watson||1||0|
— Tim Quievryn // Speed51.com Correspondent