MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 15) — Showing the fortitude of a three-time world champion, Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. rallied his race team through a long night of hard work to improve their standing at the 20th annual Mid-South NHRA Nationals. When all was said and done, the exhaustive effort paid handsome dividends, with Coughlin resurrecting his championship charge in a lightning-quick 6.619 seconds.

Coughlin started the second day of qualifying at Memphis Motorsports Park a disappointing 12th on the provisional elimination ladder with a best of just 6.736 seconds. With teammate Dave Connolly on the pole, the side of the pit came together and figured out a strategy to improve their fortunes.

“With only three races left until the next cutoff in the Countdown to the Championship we knew it was time to step it up,” said Coughlin, who is currently fifth in the POWERade points, one spot removed from the next Countdown bump spot. “We decided to make some pretty significant changes with the car, mainly with the engine and with some suspension components.

“When we woke up this morning and saw how the weather had changed so dramatically for the better, we made even more changes with the tires, the transmission, the rear end, and the shocks. It kind of became a do-or-die scenario very quickly.”

As Coughlin waited his turn to run, the drivers in front of him quickly showed how much better the elapsed times and top speeds were going to be after an overnight cooling trend. Friday’s heat was gone, replaced by cool breezes and very low humidity. The e.t.’s on the racetrack improved by at least a tenth of a second across the board.

“I looked up a few pairs before I strapped into my ol’ Chevy and saw we had already been pushed out of the field,” Coughlin said. “We knew we had to make the run of the weekend right then.”

Although he was in the less favorable right-hand lane, Coughlin overcame the dodgy starting line and early bumps to post a 6.619 at 207.98 mph, which placed him in the top half of the elite field in the No. 7 starting position. The excitement and relief was evident throughout the Victor Cagnazzi Racing camp.

“The sacrifice these guys made last night is admirable,” said Coughlin, a two-time winner at MMP. “I’m so happy it paid off for all of us today. It gets nerve wracking some times because any little bobble can cost you big-time if it happens at the wrong time. To go from off the qualifying sheets to the top half of the elimination field is impressive by any standard. These guys should be very proud of themselves.

“Now we need to prepare just as hard for tomorrow’s eliminations. We need to get back in the top four at the very least so that we’re in the field for the next cutoff. Every round will feel like a final from here on out so we’re locked in on the job at hand. It’s a comfortable feeling for me to know I have such a talented group behind me.”

Coughlin will open eliminations against Mike Edwards, who qualified 10th with a 6.632 at 207.88 mph. Coughlin is 3-0 versus Edwards this season with all three races occurring in the opening round of elimiations.

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