DALLAS (Sept. 16) — Reigning Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. took a big step towards defending his ’07 title Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., by racing to a third-place finish that moved him to within 31 points of the POWERade lead. He’ll try to erase the rest of the deficit this weekend at the Texas Motorplex, the track where he made his professional debut 11 years ago.

Coughlin started the six-race Countdown to 1 in third place, a perch he still occupies, but he knows another strong outing could make up the round-and-a-half worth of points he needs to claim the top spot.

“We have all the pieces in place,” Coughlin said. “The weather forecast looks spectacular for Dallas, with a nice little cool front blowing through, and that’s exactly what these naturally-aspirated Pro Stock cars love. The guys at the engine shop have been rounding up the horses and the motors are stout. It’s just a matter of execution.”

The Texas Motorplex has been kind to Coughlin in the past. He won the race in 2002 and was runner-up in 2000 and 2003.

Coming into this event, Coughlin sports a race day record of 32-16 with two wins in fine final-round appearances. His consistent JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt has carried him to the final four or better in four of the last five races.

“We’ll need that sort of consistency to have a shot,” the 37-year-old Coughlin said from his home in Delaware, Ohio. “Every racer in the top-10 is going for broke at this point and, as we saw in Charlotte when Justin Humphreys won the event, the guys outside the playoffs are anxious to run the party.

“It’s really just a normal day in Pro Stock. Every race is cutthroat and it’s not unusual to see the win light decided by thousandths of a second. The only thing that’s changing is the pressure because in five races someone is going to be the new champ. We hope it’s us. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will be the happy one at the end.”

Including Dallas, there are just 20 rounds of elimination racing left in the season.

“We’re not altering our gameplan,” Coughlin said. “We like to make sure we’re one of the top three or four cars every round, regardless of conditions. On race day, it comes down to everyone doing their job properly, including me. I like that because I’ll stack this team up against any other group out there.”

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