SONOMA, Calif. (July 28) — Three-time NHRA champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. soared through a 6.634-second quarter-mile pass at 207.21 mph Saturday morning to improve to the No. 5 spot on the final qualifying ladder of the 20th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Riding the cool breezes of San Francisco’s North Bay, Coughlin was one of a small handful of racers to improve in the session. By moving up in the elimination field he holds the advantage of lane choice over first-round opponent Greg Stanfield, who qualified 12th with a 6.651 at 206.92 mph.

“We were confident after last night’s run that we had room to improve and the boys did a great job of reading the track and adapting to the conditions,” Coughlin said. “It’s always better to qualify as high as possible on the ladder because in theory you have an easier road to the final. But we all know the reality of racing in Pro Stock — anyone in the field can win any race.

“Right now both Dave (Connolly, teammate) and I have secured positions in the Countdown to the Championship, so that’s exciting. What we’re focusing on now is hitting Indy at full stride so we can start earning points towards the next phase when they cut the field down from eight to four. We’d like to be in that group as well.”

The Countdown to the Championship is a new playoff system the NHRA has instituted to determine the 2007 champions. The first part of the Countdown reduces the field of championship contenders to the top eight points earners in each class. That begins in Indy. After that, racers have four more events before the group is narrowed to the final four pros who will race for the title over the last two races on the schedule.

“It’s going to be exciting because they reset the points at the start of each of those phases so we’ll need to be on our toes,” Coughlin said. “So far, Dave and I have been in the top four but we’ll need to continue our performances to stay that way. A strong race here will help us tremendously.”

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

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