LAS VEGAS (April 12) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. has won 52 NHRA national events and four world championships in his career. He’ll need every bit of that experience Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway if he expects to win his fourth race at the beautiful facility on the northern outskirts of Sin City.

Soaring temperatures and a tricky racing surface caused fits for most of the top drivers in the Pro Stock class and Coughlin was no exception in his Chevrolet Cobalt. Still, the steely reigning champ coolly posted a 6.743 at 203.98 mph to qualify for his 68th consecutive race.

“It’s always a relief to qualify for these events,” Coughlin said. “You have to remember that these are the best drivers in the world and every spot on the elimination ladder is hard to earn. It’s a tribute to this team that we’ve been a part of so many races in a row.

“Having said that, I believe everyone in this pit would tell you we could have and should have run better. We’ve had little weird things happening but these things happen to all of us so the difference between the teams that are successful and the others is the ability to overcome the problems you inevitably will face on any given weekend.”

Qualifying did nothing to change the top of the current POWERade standings as both No. 2 Coughlin and No. 1 Greg Anderson scored three bonus points during time trials. That leaves Coughlin just three points behind his friendly rival.

“It seems we’re all having issues,” said Coughlin, who ceded the points lead to Anderson at the last event in Houston. “I think it’s a case of trying a little too hard. We need to just settle down and race the way we know how to race. It’s imperative to go rounds tomorrow and if we can go one more than Greg, we’ll have a chance to get the points lead back. I know this Victor Cagnazzi Racing group will be ready for whatever happens.”

Coughlin will open race day against Mike Edwards (6.737 at 204.08 mph). The two veteran racers have not faced each other in eliminations this year. Coughlin was a perfect 5-0 against Edwards in 2007, including four first-round victories.

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