Coughlin waited until the last of three qualifying sessions to make the field at Brainerd International Raceway. Handling the pressure with ease, Coughlin responded with a 6.684 at 205.57 mph to earn the No. 12 slot for his JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt. Krisher did slightly better, running a 6.660 at 207.56 mph to earn lane choice against Coughlin.
“Drama, drama, drama,” Coughlin said of making the cut in the final session. “We came in here with a new motor, which isn’t unusual for us, and we ran pretty well in Q1. I think we were seventh overall and had the sixth-best speed.
“We knew the next round would be better with the engine sealed up completely and it was. The only problem was the car went dead left towards the wall and I had to fight to save the run. We still improved, somehow, just not as much as we had hoped we would.
“It came down to that final round and by the time we got up there we’d been bumped out so it was crucial to make it down the track. I just wanted the car to go straight because I knew if it did then we’d be quick enough to move up. We all know that what you should run and what you do run can be two different things. In the end, we got in the show and I really feel in my heart we have a top-five car so we’ll have a chance tomorrow.”
No matter what happens Sunday, Coughlin will enter the Countdown to the Championship, which begins at the next tour stop in Indianapolis, in the No. 3 position, which means he’ll be just 40 points off the Pro Stock lead. The NHRA resets the points for the top 10 drivers before the start of the playoffs and separates everyone by just 10 points each. The low qualifier from the regular season gets a 20-point bonus.
In the three years since the Countdown format was implemented, Coughlin has won the championship twice.
Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. CDT and will be shown in primetime on ESPN2.
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