RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 12) — Reigning series titlist Jeg Coughlin Jr. more than doubled his lead in the POWERade championship chase from 32 to 74 points with a runner-up finish Sunday at the third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park.

Racing in his seventh final of the season, the 38-year-old Coughlin drove past John Nobile, Mike Edwards, and Johnny Gray before being nipped in the money round by Dave Connolly, his teammate at Victor Cagnazzi Racing. Coughlin’s Chevrolet Cobalt was the quickest car in the first and third rounds on the day.

“We’re definitely excited with the weekend,” Coughlin said. “Of course, we wanted to seal the deal in the final but it was good to see Dave win and move right up to third in the points. We kept it in the Victor Cagnazzi Racing family so it’s all good.

“We were nursing a slight clutch problem all day and we almost got away with it. Unfortunately, it just caught up to us in the final and she was just spinning away down there, which allowed Dave to get around us.”

Leaving within one thousandths of a second of one another, Coughlin and Connolly stayed side-by-side for most of the way down the track until Connolly managed to pull away ever-so-slightly to win with a 6.574 at 209.33 mph to Coughlin’s 6.611 at 206.86 mph.

Kurt Johnson remains second in the POWERade points but his quarterfinal exit allowed Coughlin to pad his lead with two races left in the season. Connolly’s win, his fourth of the season, lifted him to third place, 77 behind Coughlin. Each elimination round is worth 20 points and there are just eight rounds left in the season.

“I feel very good about where we are in the points; we all do,” Coughlin said. “Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us to this point and it’s extremely satisfying to have a little cushion. But there is still allot of racing left to do and it appears our teammate is going to give us a run for our money.

“I’m already looking forward to Las Vegas. It’s one of my favorite places to go, both for fun and to race. We always seem to have a great time there and we usually have some success on the racetrack as well so it’ll be exciting this time through, for sure.”

The final two races of the season take place Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Las Vegas and Nov. 13-16 in Pomona, Calif.

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