by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com
This reporter was fortunate to be on the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway and at Daytona International Speedway for media day.
This busy offseason included many events during Speedweeks, Pro Stock Florida practice as well as Late Model and Modified racing at New Smyrna Park and Volusia Raceway Park.
All this travel has resulted in the rare opportunity to ask a variety of questions to many dozens of drivers and owners.
After multiple opportunities the range of inquiry expanded beyond basic season expectation thoughts. The goal soon became question creativity.
And so a report series originated out of an abundance of responses. In this second component of at least six installments only brothers who grew up in a motorsports environment answer a single uncomplicated question for fans.
The common question asked of each was: What are your best childhood memories of growing up in motorsports—your first thoughts about racing?
Six brothers—Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jeg Coughlin Jr., John Coughlin, Mike Coughlin and Troy Coughlin—shared their thoughts about NASCAR and NHRA first memories. The report order is one of seniority, oldest first in each family.
Kurt Busch shared his racing moments with his father and brother on the same racetrack.
“When I developed my skills, dad and I would run one, two a lot,” Busch said. “When we would get in first and second, he would slide up high, bump me, move back up front, and it would turn into a little bit of a show. It was enjoyable doing that with dad. When Kyle started getting a little older, getting his skills developed, it was fun for me to do the same thing back to Kyle.”
Kyle Busch recalled winning back then. Victory Lane has become a welcome habit after he grew up to NASCAR.
“I think racing Legends back at home in Vegas was awesome,” Busch said. “There was a stretch that I had where I won 18 races in a row on Friday nights and Saturday nights in Legends Cars. From there I moved to Late Models. I actually, I think I won five or six in a row in Late Models. In that year, I won 10 out of 15 but I had to miss the first three races because I wasn’t old enough yet. Till May 2. So I missed the first three races and didn’t get to go for the championship. There was a lot of fun with my dad. My brother was there for a little bit of it before he moved on to the bigger, better things.”
John Coughlin is one of four brothers that not only grew up to drag race, but each became an intricate part of their dad’s high performance parts business.
“That goes way back,” John said. “I remember going to work with my dad, at JEGS, when we had just a small speed shop. I guess I was a little crazy, running around. So they’d stack up two, three, four slicks and they put me in the middle of it, so I couldn’t get away. I guess that’s a motorsports memory.
“A lot of important memories came to mind when you said that. We used to play in the pit area with different racer’s kids like Bob Glidden, we used to play with their kids. We used to play with Jimmy and Tom Prock. We used to play with little John Muldowney. Larry Dixon. We used to run around the pit area and go out in the gravel and throw up rocks with our feet like we were doing a burnout. We had a flash light like the tree was coming down. And then we’d run and race.
“We’d be at Xenia at a pro stock match race or at Indy for the US Nationals playing with their sons.”
Mike Coughlin spoke warmly about his past.
“Some of my first memories as a child at the races would be going to places like National Trail Raceway, Dragway 42, Pacemakers Dragway and Marion County Raceway to watch our Dad race his nitro injected A/FC. They had a Midwest circuit that did a lot of match racing with those funny cars.
“I remember the sounds and the smell of the nitro. I also remember riding in the tow car, going down the track to pick he and Bob Durban up after they ran. I also remember watching Sam Park run his injected front engine dragster.
“My grandparents, Ga Ga and Paw Paw were also there a lot, bringing buckets of chicken and goodies. We also would go and watch the circle track races sometimes and watch Don Gregory and Bud and Gary St. Amant run the Jegs Camaro stock car at places like Columbus Motor Speedway and Queen City Raceway.
“Those were all good times and I always remember thinking that someday I wanted to be a racer and thanks to my dad and our family and company I was able to have my dream come true too. Now my kids are involved in racing too.”
Troy Coughlin echoed a fondness for racing that he and his brothers share.
“What a blast growing up in auto racing, they are still great times today,” Coughlin said.
“As a kid in the 3 to 5-year old—I’m guessing the trips in the truck with all the family running across the country from Marion county raceway in Marion, Ohio on a Saturday night then to places like US 131 Drag way up in Martin, Michigan, we would, actually dad would drag our bikes and mini bikes to all the races.
“We used to race on foot and on our bikes against some of the other kids that were there with their parents—the Gliddens and Todd Veney to name a couple.
“It wasn’t long before we all started then racing the mini bikes. That’s when it all started to get upside down.
“The NHRA Division Three Director at the time was Bob Daniels. Most of the time Bob wasn’t real excited with all of us kids and our friends running around (It was kinda dangerous) but we meant well.
“I’d say between all this and flames and fumes—It was just a great time to be a kid growing up in drag racing, and that’s what we did and loved.”
Jeg Coughlin Jr. lifted his early experience to five NHRA championships.
“There are so many lifetime memories that my brothers and I have been able to share together so it’s hard to pinpoint one,” Coughlin said. “But when you wake up and you can barely walk and you’re in a diaper and it’s still dark out and you look out through the front windows and the car hauler is out there with a Funny Car on it and there’s another Funny Car behind it. And the house is stirring and it’s time to load the truck up and run it to the racetrack.
“I’m not sure it gets much better than that.
“As an infant and a young kid growing into the sport and any imagination you want to take from that has lead me through the many race wins and the championships that my family and all of us have had. It’s been a blessing.”
With that honest quote this part two in quest for best childhood memories from NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar greats will end for now. More analysis and comments coming soon from this FYI WIRZ series on growing up in motorsports.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.