Coughlin opened a picture-perfect day at zMax Dragway with a stunning 6.551 at 211.06 mph to thrill the capacity crowd, which included several members of his Mooresville-based team, Victor Cagnazzi Racing. He then returned in the afternoon and banged out a track record 6.520 at 212.29 mph to put his JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt on top for good.
“This feels fantastic,” Coughlin said. “It’s great to be here and it’s neat to see Bruton Smith’s dream come true again — to take drag racing four-wide. I can remember looking through my dad’s scrapbook from the late ’60s where there were pictures of four-wide drag racing back then with a flagman standing in the middle of the track.
“In modern history, this is definitely an interesting deal for drag racing, for Pro Stock, and for us as well. It’s quite an honor to be the first No. 1 qualifier and it gives us great momentum going into tomorrow.”
Coughlin will begin the quest for his first Charlotte victory against No. 8 qualifier Bob Yonke (6.592 at 210.97 mph), No. 9 qualifier Shane Gray (6.595 at 209.56 mph), and No. 16 qualifier Rodger Brogdon (6.618 at 210.57 mph). Per four-wide rules, the two drivers that post the quickest elapsed times will advance to the next round.
“I’ve made thousands of runs down the racetrack in a multitude of racecars but this will still be a challenge for me, one that I’m looking forward to very much,” he said. “I’ve looked forward to this as we’ve prepared for Charlotte over the last couple of weeks. We talked to other racers and talked to NHRA about the format and how it would work, so mentally I’ve put a lot of time and thought into how we’re going to race this and handle the different situations. Fortunately, I’ve had a majority of the scenarios I dreamed up play out in my four time trial runs, so I feel like I’ve seen it and been a part of it.
“I’ve been driving and hitting the tree pretty well even with some of the distractions. Looking at the Christmas Tree they have for the four-wide is definitely more of a challenge for a driver but I’ll be ready. My comfort level coming into this event was probably at 60 percent and right now going into game day, I feel well above 90 percent.”
Having the quickest car in two of the four qualifying heats and the second quickest in the other two, Coughlin gained 10 bonus points towards the Full Throttle championship. He entered this event 10th in the world rankings.
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