TOPEKA, Kan. (June 1) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. showed why he’s a four-time champion Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka, racing from the No. 13 position and upsetting two higher-slotted drivers to card a strong semifinal showing that lifted him two spots in the world rankings. The extraordinary effort after a trouble-filled qualifying session placed him second in the points, just 20 markers behind new leader Kurt Johnson.

Coughlin’s Chevrolet Cobalt looked good during his two victorious runs. The 52-time national event winner beat Greg Stanfield with a 6.751 at 203.52 mph to Stanfield’s 6.770 at 203.00 mph in Round 1, before knocking off Mike Edwards in the quarterfinals with a 6.774 at 204.17 mph to Edwards’ 6.793 at 203.28 mph.

“You always want to win but we’re pretty pleased with the weekend and how it turned out,” Coughlin said. “I can’t say I’m too surprised. We didn’t look that great in qualifying but that was more of a result of how things fell into place. We hurt a motor in Q2 and that was the session everyone was putting up the big numbers.

“We knew we had more than we had showed. All the ingredients are here; we just hadn’t put them together right yet. Our confidence in our ability to run up front was still there and I believe we were in the top four performance-wise in both Rounds 1 and 2, so we probably finished about where we were supposed to this weekend.”

In the semifinals, Coughlin left on opponent Larry Morgan and was pulling away in the early stages of the race before his car got loose and he was forced to push in the clutch and abort the run.

“I had the feeling we were going to win and it would have been huge,” he said. “But we were just a little too hot, a little too revved up with the motor, and the car just spun the tires almost immediately. I grabbed second gear and it spun even harder, so I went into third and saw that Larry was well ahead so I just pushed in the clutch. There was no way I was going to catch him and it would have been foolish to damage the engine.

“We’ll get over to Chicago and give it another run. We’ve had eight different winners in nine races this year, which speaks volumes about the parity and competitiveness of this class. It’s great for us to be second in the points.”

The entire NHRA contingent doesn’t have long to wait before hitting the track again as the Route 66 NHRA Nationals begin Friday in Joliet, Ill., just outside of Chicago.

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