Past Champ St. Amant Has Protege Cody Coughlin Ready For Pro Debut
OVID, Aug. 4, 2010: Third-generation racer Cody Coughlin will make his professional stock car debut this Saturday in the Michigan 100 at Owosso Speedway. Although he's just 14 years old, driving coach Gary St. Amant, a two-time world champion, says his young protégé is up for the challenge of racing in the ASA Late Model Northern Series, despite the fact some of the racers have as much as four decades of driving experience.
"At times you forget he's 14," said St. Amant, who once tutored NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson. "Cody's a very mature kid. He certainly drives a racecar like a man.
"At the same time, you have to let him be a kid. Just the other day we were testing and I went up in the lounge to get him and he was playing a video game with my 12-year-old son Ty. I said, 'Come on Cody, the car's ready.' And he asked me if he could finish the game real quick. I almost got mad, but then I remembered a situation that came up when I was working with Jimmie Johnson.
"One time Jimmie's dad told me about his other son Jerrod. He was wanting to race motorcycles and they had one all set up for him at the track. Well, he went to get him and Jerrod was playing with a frog he had caught. He said, 'Jerrod, you want to race or play with the frog?' and Jerrod told him he wanted to play with the frog. So they just let the bike sit there and he didn't race.
"Being a racer, my thought was to do everything you can to go race, but like Mr. Johnson said, 'Racing will always be there. You're only a kid for a little while.' He's right, and I never want to lose sight of that. Cody's the youngest driver I've ever worked with and I want to let him grow into this at his pace, which has been plenty fast enough."
St. Amant and Coughlin have conducted numerous tests leading up to this weekend's race and he's been impressed with Coughlin's progress in his 420-horsepower JEGS.com Chevrolet Impala, enough so that he gave Cody's father John his nod of approval.
"The best thing I can say about Cody is he's gotten better every time out," St. Amant said. "And that's saying a lot. He's taking all the steps and doing it the right way. He was as raw as they come when he first started but he's handling it very well. I can't even imagine what he'll be like three or four years from now with a headstart like this. He has the potential to be very special, like a Joey Logano-type driver."
Citing the high expectations Coughlin has put on himself, mainly due to the championship breeding of his multi-time drag racing champion father John, uncles Jeg Jr., Mike, and Troy Sr., and great grandfather Jeg Coughlin Sr., a bona fide Hall of Famer, St. Amant says a safe weekend that ends with Coughlin seeing the checkered flag would be a great start.
"If he can run all the laps, stay out of trouble, keep his nose clean, and bring the car back in one piece I'd be tickled to death," St. Amant said. "He knows having the last name of Coughlin puts a bunch of expectations on him but I just want him to drive to the best of his abilities. If he does that, he'll make his family plenty proud."