BROOKLYN, Mich. — Instead of entering drag racing, as expected of a member of the legendary Coughlin family, 19-year-old Cody Coughlin is currently making his name in stock car racing.
A current development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and a part-time driver of Venturini Motorsports’s No. 55 Toyota in the ARCA Racing Series, Coughlin’s future is looking bright with his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut looming ahead in July.
How did the Delaware, Ohio native go against the current and wind up in stock car racing? In this week’s exclusive Talking Racing, The Fourth Turn sat down with Coughlin at Michigan International Speedway to learn about his journey into the sport and what his future holds.
WHAT WAS THE MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU FIRST REALIZED THAT YOU WANTED TO BECOME A RACE CAR DRIVER?
Well, my family’s always been in racing my whole life – but it’s always been in drag racing. I was always around that. I wasn’t really around this that much. I just started watching it a little bit on TV. I dabbled in quarter midgets here and there. But, really I went to the Daytona 500 – I don’t recall exactly what year it was – but I was like ‘man, this is cool!’ I decided that I think I’m going to try and pursue this and try to make it there one day. Just watching those guys – Jimmie, Jeff and Tony and all of them – just kind of inspired me to want to do it. We’re plugging along, been knocking on the door in the ARCA Series – we’ve been close [on the speedways.]
THE COUGHLIN NAME IS SYNONYMOUS WITH DRAG RACING. WERE YOU PUSHED TOWARDS DRAG RACING AT A YOUNG AGE?
I wasn’t pushed really to do anything. I dabbled in junior drag racing to start with, it was alright. I really enjoyed being in the car a little bit longer and obviously this format of racing offers that. With that, like I’ve mentioned with inspiration from those other guys, I just told them that this is the direction that I want to go and we made it work.
WHO WERE YOUR RACING HEROES GROWING UP?
Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart were the big three that I looked up to – and still do. I’m fortunate enough to have gotten to know Tony and Jimmie fairly well. I wouldn’t say we’re best friends by any means, but it’s cool to be able to ask them questions and stuff. I’ve met Jeff a few times, so it was cool to be able to meet him.
WHAT WAS THE CAREER PATH YOU TOOK TO GET TO THIS POINT?
We did quarter midgets to start with. I got into it a little bit later than most people – I started when I was 10 or 11. We did that for a year or so and won a couple of races here and there and really it was time to move up into a bigger car. Traditionally, you might move into a bandolero or something like that in between quarter midgets and a stock car, but we just went to a stock car. We raced that for a few years and won some races and a championship in our touring series that we raced – the CRA. We thought that the right time was to move up to the bigger and heavier cars now and race on the speedways like this. Here we are, we’ve been knocking on the door and I’m really excited about it. Obviously, the goal is to get to the Cup Series someday – that’s my main goal.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH BOTH VENTURINI MOTORSPORTS AND JOE GIBBS RACING?
Joe Gibbs Racing, we talked with them when I was first getting into, I call them the ‘heavier cars’ as these are quite heavier than our late model. We told them kind of what our goals were and it just all made sense for us to partner up and then they introduced us to the Venturinis and whatnot and it’s been a really good experience for me and hopefully them as well. To be involved in their organization, such a top-notch organization obviously, it’s a really cool thing.
FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, YOU’RE TAKEN ON A GOOD-SIZED ARCA SCHEDULE. BUT FOR THIS YEAR, YOU HAVE AN ESTABLISHED VETERAN OF THE SERIES, FRANK KIMMEL, AS A TEAMMATE. HOW HAS HIS PRESENCE AS A TEAMMATE HELPED YOU AS A DRIVER?
Anytime you can be around people that are successful, which I’m very thankful to have some of those on my own team with Kevin Hamlin and Scott Wimmer, you kind of just see what they do and hear what they do and it kind of rubs off on you a little bit. I’ve learned a lot from Frank and whoever else that I’ve raced with without actually even talking to them that much – just by watching. Verbally, he’s been a big help too. He’s a very approachable person and obviously, like you said, a really good driver.
I HEAR YOU’LL BE MAKING YOUR NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES DEBUT LATER THIS YEAR.
Yeah, we’re going to be doing that at Kentucky Speedway – I think in July at some point. I’m excited about it. I ran well there in the ARCA car and got a top-three or top-four finish, I don’t recall exactly. It’s a good track for us, I’m familiar with it and so it should be a good place to have my Truck debut.
ARE THERE ANY MORE TRUCK STARTS LINED UP FOR YOU BEYOND KENTUCKY?
I think we’re going to do two or three more this year after that. Who knows after that, hopefully more.
OUTSIDE OF ARCA AND TRUCKS, WHAT ARE YOUR RACING PLANS LOOKING LIKE THIS YEAR?
I’m going to continue racing our late model on the short tracks up north and around the midwest when we’re not here at the big speedways with the ARCA car. We’ll be trying to hit those pretty hard to just keep me in the seat as much as I can. Experience and track time is obviously your best asset.
ANYTHING LINED UP FOR 2016 YET WHETHER IT BE IN TRUCKS OR IN THE NASCAR XFINITY SERIES?
2016 we have some thoughts in mind but nothing’s finalized yet. We’ll obviously make an announcement when we do decide, but nothing official just yet.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN RACING IN FIVE YEARS?
In five years? Hopefully racing on Sunday here in the Cup Series. I think that that’s a realistic goal. For sure XFINITY, I would think by then we should be pretty established then and approaching the Cup Series at least. I think that would put me at 24 or so which is a fairly common age to get into the Cup Series. I think Jimmie Johnson was around there age-wise, give or take a few years. Obviously, there’s a few exceptions to the rule but I think that’s a pretty good age. You’re established, you’re mature. Hopefully we’ll be in the Cup Series, that’s my goal for five years.
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky
Photo credit: ARCAracing.com