POMONA, Calif. (Oct. 30) — Three-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. opened the two-race Countdown to 1 by facing the other three men still eligible to win the 2007 POWERade title. No other racer in any professional category had such a daunting task, but the ultra-cool Coughlin handled it with an ease that has to rattle his opponents heading into this weekend’s 43rd annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

Starting race day in Las Vegas as the lowest qualified Countdown to 1 participant, Coughlin opened eliminations against Allen Johnson. With his title hopes on the line, Coughlin coolly responded with a huge upset win that set-up a second-round tilt against teammate Dave Connolly, who had won the last five races in a row.

With pressure that would crush most people, Coughlin — a 50-time national event winner — pulled off the biggest single round win of the year, shocking the drag racing world with a titanic holeshot win over the POWERade points leader.

Another round win over Greg Stanfield placed Coughlin in the final against Greg Anderson, whom he left on (Coughlin’s reaction time average on the day was a staggering .013 seconds) but ultimately lost to at the top end, taking runner-up honors to stay firmly in the championship chase.

The mentally-draining day in the desert was worth the effort as Coughlin arrives at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with a clear-cut goal — go two more rounds than Anderson and clinch his fourth POWERade championship.

“It won’t be easy but it’s certainly not impossible,” Coughlin said. “It’s exciting just to have a chance. You fight all year long to put yourself in this position and here we are. It’s a real tribute to this JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt race team to be here.”

Anderson has finished in the semifinals or earlier 10 times this year, showing some vulnerability, but Coughlin knows it will be tough to catch his rival.

“We’ll need to be perfect and hope Greg stumbles,” Coughlin said. “The best case scenario is to face him early in the day so we have that opportunity to control our own destiny. We also need to watch Dave because he’s less than a round behind us. We’re all bunched up. It’s going to be very intense for all of us and whoever ultimately wins the championship will have earned it.”

As for his cool demeanor, Coughlin, a five-time winner at Pomona, take sit all in stride.

“I love to drag race and when it gets intense, I love it even more,” Coughlin said. “I like the pressure. It helps me concentrate. This will be a big weekend, by all means, but I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation. I’m having a ball.”

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