CHARLOTTE (Sept. 20) — After leading the Full Throttle points for the last 14 races of the regular season, Jeg Coughlin Jr. relinquished the top spot Sunday at zMax Dragway in the first of six playoff events that will decide the 2009 champion.

Coughlin posted his best pass of the weekend in his first-round race against Jason Line — a 6.640 at 208.30 mph in his Chevrolet Cobalt — but Line’s slightly quicker 6.629 at 209.01 mph turned on the win light in his lane, handing Coughlin his first Round 1 loss of the year.

“We obviously found what was slowing us down in qualifying but we were just a little too late with our forward progress this weekend,” said Coughlin, who left the starting line ahead of Line by .001 seconds. “We got behind early and were playing catch up all weekend and it came back to bite us in the end.”

Coughlin will now try to make up ground at next weekend’s stop in Dallas, where he raced from the No. 1 qualifier’s position to a runner-up finish one year ago and set the track’s elapsed time record of 6.631 seconds. Coughlin won the Dallas race in 2002, the same year he won his second of four Pro Stock world titles.

“We’ll need to be stars like the Dallas Cowboys next weekend,” Coughlin said. “Our margin for error has tightened up a bit. It’s certainly time to put our best foot forward and get to work. This is a team full of champions and we’ve come from behind to win the title the last two years in a row so we know what it takes.

“I think we’ll be fine. No one is particularly happy at the moment but the good news is we don’t have long to wait until we get to race again.”


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