BRISTOL, Tenn. (May 17) — Defending series and event champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. failed to qualify for this weekend’s eighth annual O’Reilly Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals, missing the elimination field by just three-thousandths of a second Saturday afternoon at Bristol Dragway.

Coughlin had qualified his Chevrolet Cobalt at 70 consecutive events, dating back four years to the national event in Topeka, Kan.

“It stings, no question about it,” Coughlin said. “But we’ll rebound quickly and never look back. This is the brutal part of NHRA drag racing. You’re only as good as your last pass.”

Coughlin’s last pass was his best of the weekend, a 6.739 at 205.13 mph. It just wasn’t enough to make the cut.

“We really didn’t get a handle on the car until Q4 and that 6.73 was pretty decent,” the 37-year-old Coughlin said. “We got off our game plan a little and found ourselves behind all weekend. Joe Hornick and the guys from the engine shop brought up a new motor for us and we put it in between Q1 and Q2. They told me to hold on because it was a stout piece and they were right. We just didn’t get it to agree with the car quick enough.

“The first time I dropped the clutch in Q2 I could feel how powerful it was. We had it too hopped up for the track so we backed her down for this morning’s run and we were still too hot and it shook the tires. In Q4, the plan was to just calm it all the way down and muscle her in there and we nearly got away with it. We just came up a tad short.”

Coughlin entered the event second in the POWERade Drag Racing Series championship points. He cannot lose more than two positions in the rankings.

“We’ll be ready for Topeka,” said Coughlin, the winner of four world titles and 52 national events. “We’ve got a weekend off and the guys will have everything back to the shop in Mooresville (N.C.) by this evening. This will be one determined bunch by the time we roll into Kansas.”

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