“Any time you win a race that only invites the best of the best it’s pretty darn special,” Coughlin said. “It certainly sets a great tone for this weekend and continues the momentum we’ve built over the first part of the season. We’re going for our 60th career national event win tomorrow so we could really make this one of the all-time weekends.”
Spurred on by a partial home state crowd, Coughlin, of Delaware, Ohio, was an underdog all day but used exceptional driving to claim the special race-within-a-race, which invites the top eight qualifiers from the previous 12 months to battle for cash prizes.
“To do it here in Ohio makes it all the better,” Coughlin said. “This race always used to be run in Englishtown, N.J., but they moved it here and that’s okay by me. We have a bunch of family and friends here supporting us and it’s really neat to give them something to get excited about. It’s going to be wild winner’s circle celebration.”
Action began with a tough matchup against Allen Johnson, who had driven to the provisional Pro Stock pole Friday evening for the regular national event. This time, Johnson encountered severe tire shake 200 feet into the race and had to abort his run, handing the win to No. 6 qualifier Coughlin, who went 6.670 at 206.95 mph.
Another monster race awaited Coughlin in the semifinals with red-hot Mike Edwards in the other lane. But just as he has so many times before this year, Coughlin posted an incredible reaction time of .012 seconds ahead of Edwards’ sluggish .055-second start, which translated to a holeshot victory at the other end. Coughlin takes the stripe first with a 6.709 at 206.95 mph to Edwards’ quicker but losing 6.673 at 207.75 mph.
In the final, Coughlin faced a familiar foe in Greg Anderson, but once again got an early jump — .020 to .062 seconds — and never looked back, screaming away to an easy win in 6.675 at 207.05 mph. Anderson encountered tire spin at the launch and couldn’t recover enough to make a run at Coughlin, crossing with a resigned 7.322 at 161.69 mph.
“For us to run a 6.67 just now in the final round, in the heat of the day no less, is pretty stout,” Coughlin said. “I’m not sure what happened to Greg but with the advantage we had at the start of the race I’m not sure he could have caught us any way.”
This marked Coughlin’s third K&N Horsepower Challenge win. He also claimed the trophy in 199 and 2000.
Coughlin used his first pass of Saturday’s action — the 6.670 at 206.95 mph he ran against Johnson — to qualify fifth overall for Sunday’s race. As the No. 5 qualifier, he’ll race Rickie Jones, who ended up 12th with a 6.707 at 205.29 mph. Coughlin and Jones have not faced each other this year.
Eliminations for Sunday’s race begin at 11 a.m.
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