At the end of the 2004 NHRA POWERade season, Troy Coughlin made a crucial decision as to where he wanted his drag racing career to head next.
After an 11-year run in the hotly contested Pro Stock category -- a span with an equal number of highs and lows -- Coughlin broke from the rigors of the 23-race NHRA schedule and jumped into the driver's seat of a Pro Modified Ford Mustang, competing in the NHRA/AMS Pro Mod exhibition series.
The move was intended to provide the father of four a chance to slow down and spend more time at home. At first, the plan seemed to be holding together, but before long, Coughlin was as busy as he had ever been -- racing in two series in two entirely different cars.
Along with his duties in the Mike Ashley-owned Mustang, Coughlin double-dipped in the NMCA's Pro Street division in a Sonny Leonard-powered Chevy Cavalier sporting a massive 824-cubic inch engine. As one of the four racing Coughlin brothers, whose family-owned business -- Jeg's High Performance Mail Order in Columbus, Ohio -- has become an industry leader, Troy gradually adapted to the challenges of learning the fine points of driving two vastly different combinations and is now a solid contender in both series.
"Initially, making the move from Pro Stock to Pro Mod was difficult," said Troy, whose brothers Jeg, Mike, and John are accomplished racers in a smorgasbord of drag racing classes.
"You can't just rev the engine and dump the clutch in a Pro Mod car because it will smoke the tires immediately. The driving technique is totally different than what I was used to in Pro Stock. After a while, I started to get the hang of it, our team began to jell and we had some success. Racing in NHRA Pro Stock was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I really had a blast racing Pro Mod last season."
And this year, he's really going full tilt.
Troy plans to campaign high-end machines in both Pro Mod and Pro Street, but his Pro Modified mount can be described only as completely over the top. Instead of the supercharged Mustang from last year, Troy will be attempting to tame a wild, twin-turbocharged Pontiac GTO -- brandishing an engine setup that delivers incredible power but is extremely temperamental to tune. Turbocharging expert John Meany will join a team that already includes crew chief Bryan Metzenheim, Clint Allerton and Coughlin's oldest, son Troy Jr., who plans to move from the Jr. Drag Racing League into Super Gas later this season. Troy Jr.'s three sisters -- Meghan, Paige and Kelly -- also will lend their support.
"Between racing my two cars and helping Troy Jr. in his first year in Super Gas, I plan to stay very busy this season," said the elder Coughlin, who looks to start the year by racing the Pro Street car at the Fourth Annual Detroit Locker NMCA Nationals in Bradenton, Fla., in April. "I can't wait to get started."
Slowing down apparently isn't as easy as Troy Coughlin thought it would be.
Bill Stephens covers NHRA for ESPN.com.