PHOENIX (Feb. 18) – For the second straight race, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and the Dodge Avenger are starting Sunday’s NHRA Arizona Nationals from the bottom half of the ladder, but as he proved last week, a subpar qualifying effort rarely equals an early exit for Coughlin.

“It’s not where we want to start from,” Coughlin said. “We’re still trying to feel our way around with this car at this racetrack.”

Coughlin will start Sunday’s eliminations from the No. 15 spot after a best qualifying run of 6.624 seconds at 208.91 mph. Last weekend in Pomona, Coughlin reached the Pro Stock finals out of the No. 14 spot.

“We made some pretty big changes to the car for our last qualifying session,” Coughlin said. “It looks like it liked them. The ET didn’t really show it, but what we’re seeing on the graph certainly looks like we’re on the right track.”

The Dodge draws defending series champion and No. 2 qualifier Jason Line, who had a best lap of 6.539 seconds at 211.10 mph.

“He’s going to be tough,” Coughlin said. “They are very consistent and very fast. It’s something you admire. JNR Racing is working on the horsepower side and (crew chief) Tomi Laine and Pop (Jeg Sr.) are working of the efficiency side. We’re close.”

With the tough draw, Coughlin said the team will be doing its homework to try and find some more horsepower in the HEMI under his hood.

“We’ve got a pretty tall mountain to climb between where we are and the No. 2 qualifier,” Coughlin said. “I’m not sure we can wave a magic wand in the next 15 or 16 hours and bridge the gap, but we’ll give it a shot. It’s a ‘never surrender’ situation. I think if we can pick up, we’ll be able to steal the show again.”

Coughlin said an area the team is specifically looking to improve is the car’s time to the 60-foot marker.

“We’ve got to be on the aggressive side tomorrow,” Coughlin said. “After the changes we made in Q4, we believe we can get aggressive with the car. We’re near the bottom in 60-foot times, and in drag racing often times the first foot of the race is more important than the last foot.

“There’s some room to pick up there, and we’ve got the team to make the gains and turn the win light on tomorrow.”

Eliminations for the NHRA Arizona Nationals get under way at 11 a.m. MST Sunday from Firebird International Raceway.


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