Jeg Coughlin admits that it’s been awhile since he’s felt this way but the three-time NHRA champion is actually excited about race day. Coughlin qualified a strong fifth in the field of the 41st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals with a best pass of 6.704 seconds at 206.16 mph. Two of his three other attempts were within one hundredth of a second of his top mark, prompting his elevated mood.

“This is as good a car as we’ve had all year,” Coughlin said. “We can win this race with this car; I have no doubt about it. The car’s been consistent and quick and we’re in the top half of the (incremental time) sheet every pass. That’s what you want as a driver. You need to know you have a car under you.

“My driving has been very steady and if I can keep that up tomorrow we’ll go rounds. That’s not to say it’ll be easy, it never is in this class, but we do have a better chance than we’ve had at other events this season.”

Coughlin has qualified for every event this season, pushing his current streak of race day appearances to 37, which is currently third best in the Pro Stock class. All that’s missing this year for the Jeg’s Mail Order Dodge Stratus R/T group is a win, something Coughlin hopes to change Sunday.

He’ll open eliminations against Allen Johnson, who qualified 12th with a 6.716 at 204.48 mph. Coughlin and Johnson have raced each other one time this year with Johnson holding a 1-0 advantage.

“We know what it takes to win, especially at this track,” said Coughlin, a four-time Pomona winner with seven final-round appearances. “It’s a thrill to head into the off-season with a win. You get to enjoy it for the entire winter. We’ve been lucky enough to do that a few times and I’d love to do it again.”

Eliminations begin at 12 noon.

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