CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 14) — After qualifying No. 2 at the inaugural Carolina NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway, reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. knew he had a car capable of winning Sunday’s race. He nearly got it done, losing a close semifinal battle with good friend Justin Humphreys by .013 seconds to finish the day third overall.

Third place is also the ranking the 53-time national event winner entered the event, and it’s the same spot he’ll hold as the tour shift’s to next weekend’s event in Dallas.

“We’ve got no complaints,” Coughlin said. “As a driver, all you can ask for is a good chance to win and I certainly had that this weekend. The guys prepared the car flawlessly and it ran great from the start.

“We came in here third and we gained ground on Greg (Anderson, leader) because he lost in the quarters, so depending on what happens with (second place) Kurt Johnson in the final, we should be in a pretty similar position.”

The Chevrolet Cobalt race team faced Greg Stanfield first and after similar starts, Coughlin dispatched him with a 6.713 at 206.64 mph to Stanfield’s 6.737 at 205.63 mph. Next was Jason Line, who Coughlin put away at the starting line when he left the tree with a near-perfect .003-second reaction time. At the top end, Coughlin won with a 6.712 at 206.04 mph to Line’s 6.725 at 206.73 mph.

Anticipation was high that Coughlin would advance to another final round but this time it was Humphreys gaining an edge at the starting line with a .027 launch to Coughlin’s .039. That was all Humphreys needed to take the win, running a 6.707 at 205.82 mph to Coughlin’s 6.708 at 205.47 mph.

“I had a great light in Round 2 against Jason and I thought I cracked it again when we raced Justin,” Coughlin said. “It felt good going by the tree, but he had me by a touch and it held up. I needed a .015 but didn’t get it.

“I really think that’s the way the playoffs are going to be every race. It’s all going to come down to thousandths of a second every lap. It’s exciting and I’m glad we’re racing again in a few days because our hot rod is running strong.”

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