POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 15) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. successfully defended his POWERade championship by clinching the 2008 title Saturday afternoon. All Coughlin needed to do was make the field of the 44th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, which he did with a 6.678 at 206.95 mph in his JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt.

“Mission accomplished,” a relieved Coughlin said. “It’s one thing to say you’ve got it sealed up but it’s quite another to actually get it done and make it official. I’m so thrilled for this team and we’re definitely ready to let our hair down and enjoy this moment.

“At the same time, we’re still racers and there’s a national event going on tomorrow so we’re very interested in earning another win. It would be very cool to end the year on that note. Either way, we’re over the top right now at Victor Cagnazzi Racing.”

Coughlin’s elapsed time, which he recorded in Thursday’s opening session of time trials, placed him 13th in the field. He’ll open eliminations against Allen Johnson, who posted a best effort of 6.643 at 207.69 mph.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a tad disappointed with the way the car’s responding at the moment,” Coughlin said. “It’s just really having a hard time transitioning through the first 30-40 feet of the racetrack. After that, it’s fine. It’s the same deal we had earlier this year. Fortunately, I have a championship-caliber team here and I know the guys will do everything they can to get this Cobalt ready for tomorrow.

“We’ve made four runs in our car and we have 12 runs worth of data to pull from with our teammates Dave Connolly and Ron Krisher in the mix as well. Pops is here and I’m sure him and Roy (Simmons, crew chief) will put their heads together and come up with a workable tune-up that will give us a chance on race day.”

With his fourth Pro Stock title, Coughlin has pulled into a tie for third place on the all-time list in his class with the late Lee Shepherd. Only Bob Glidden’s 10 titles and Warren Johnson’s six are ahead of Coughlin and Shepherd’s total.

Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. with Pro Stock set to start around noon.

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