ATLANTA (Sept. 13) — Troy Coughlin’s drag racing season will most likely be defined this weekend in Atlanta. Racing in the sixth of seven events that make up the National Muscle Car Association’s Edelbrock series, Coughlin could leave Atlanta Dragway with two trophies — one for this weekend’s Nitto Tire Nationals and one from the rain-delayed Ross Pistons Nationals, which was originally scheduled to conclude Aug 27 in Reading, Pa.

Coughlin raced all the way to the finals in Reading before rain washed out a titanic final-round match-up with Pro Street points leader Vinny Budano. The two are separated by just two rounds worth of points in the standings so the race is very important to both drivers. Coughlin was running better than Budano in Pennsylvania, and was the favorite in the final. But the rain has given Budano a chance to regroup.

Although Coughlin maintains lane choice heading into Saturday’s rescheduled make-up final, he knows that Budano has had time to correct the issues that prevented him from making a decent runs in Reading.

“There’s no doubt Vinny is going to be tough,” Coughlin said. “They have the No. 1 on their car because they earned it last year. They’ll be ready and as tough as ever, which, as crazy as it might sound, is okay with me because I want to beat them when they’re at their best. Hopefully we can get our horsepower to the ground and give them a run. He’s a good guy and that’s a great team. It’s been a lot of fun racing them this year and this make-up race will be a battle.”

Coughlin is enthused by the major performance increase he enjoyed in Reading after his crew converted his JEGS Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier to a standard shifter. The change knocked more than a tenth of a second off his elapsed times and he managed to post a 6.51 and a 6.52 in eliminations.

“We’re still kind of wet behind the ears with the fuel injection and clutch program we installed,” Coughlin said. “That big 803 cubic inch motor makes some giant power so it’s a lot to handle. It worked exactly how we had hoped in Reading. We manage to test a few days before the event and found out what not to do, which is part of the process. Now we’ll keep pecking away and see if there might be a little more in there.”

The season ends Oct. 5-8 at Memphis Motorsports Park with the Nitto Tire NMCA World Street Finals. Coughlin is already assured a spot in the top three but it’s the championship he’s after.

“I’ve never won a national championship,” Coughlin said. “It’s a longtime goal. It’s exciting to be in this position at this point in the season. It’s right there. Maybe the weather will cooperate and we can set a national record and get those extra points. Either way, just to be in the championship hunt is a thrill. This class is so tough. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes out.”

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