MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 28) — Sunday at Memphis Motorsports Park wasn’t the best day in four-time drag racing champion Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s career, but it might turn out to be one of the more pivotal in the 2008 title chase as the driver of the Chevrolet Cobalt managed to increase his lead in the championship standings from 14 to 32 point with his quarterfinal finish.

The day started out perfectly for Coughlin as he managed to record a slight upset over higher-qualified racer Justin Humphreys with a 6.642-second pass at 207.05 mph to Humphrey’s trouble-plagued 6.979 at 162.51 mph. In the same round, the two men closest to Coughlin in the points, Kurt Johnson and Greg Anderson, both lost.

“It was an exciting round throughout the pro ranks, just watching who was advancing and who was going home early,” Coughlin said. “We’ve all been pointing to the Countdown to 1 since the start of the year and now it’s here and every round seems so big. Huge swings can happen and you know the rounds remaining are slipping away fast. It’s intense.”

Coughlin would square off with the event’s top qualifier, Allen Johnson, in the quarterfinals. Continuing the theme of the opening session, Coughlin was fortunate enough to have run quicker than Johnson in Round 1 and therefore carried lane choice into their Round 2 race.

That’s where Coughlin luck dried up.

Just after completing his burnout, Coughlin realized something was wrong with his Victor Cagnazzi Racing powerplant. He still eased the car to the starting line and staged against Johnson, hoping his opponent would jump the tree and red light, but it didn’t happen and he was forced to just shut his car off and watch Johnson steam away for the victory.

“We had some misfortune but I find it hard to complain when you look at the end result of this particular race and we actually gained ground in the points,” Coughlin said. “Obviously, it would have been huge to go a few more rounds and pad our lead even more but we burned up a pushrod again, just like in the first round of qualifying, and that was all she wrote.

“To have that happen twice in one race is unheard of and I’ve found out this weekend that we’re not the only ones having this problem so I don’t know if we have an issue with the materials we’re all being supplied. It could be a bad batch. The bottom line is we need to pick this thing apart and figure it out. We need motors that last eight runs.

“The encouraging thing for us is we have a weekend off and we also have Joe Hornick and Stevie Johns in our corner building these motors. They’re two of the best in the world and I know they’ll have us ready for Richmond.”

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