DELAWARE, Ohio (Oct. 27) — One year ago, as Jeg Coughlin Jr. made his way to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, he was third in the POWERade points, 30 back of teammate Dave Connolly. Despite a runner-up finish in Sin City, he left town even farther behind winner Greg Anderson, who carried a 34-point edge to the season finale in California.

This time around, Coughlin aims his Chevrolet Cobalt towards Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a fairly comfortable 74-point cushion over second place Kurt Johnson. Additionally, he’s 77 up on Connolly and 82 ahead of Anderson. Yet, even though the circumstances are different, the man who ultimately found a way to win last year’s title will bring the exact same approach to his quest for back-to-back crowns.

“We still have the same mindset; it’s going to take one heckuva an effort to win the POWERade title,” said Coughlin, a four-time world champ. “Heading into Vegas last year we knew we probably needed a visit from Lady Luck. We knew we had to run extremely well at both races to have a chance. As it turned out, we got the breaks, had a perfect car, made no mistakes, and managed to pull it off.

“I feel exactly the same way this time through.”

So just how does a champion racer with 53 national event trophies on his mantle manage to get himself up for the fight ahead?

“We’re driven to win by the thrill of the victory,” Coughlin said. “I know that drive to win is a commonality of everyone on this team, of everyone throughout Victor Cagnazzi Racing, of everyone at Chevrolet and General Motors. We’re all wired in such a way that we’re never satisfied.

“When you win, you just want to do it again. I’m just as excited now as I’ve ever been when I win a race. That line-’em-up-and-let’s-go competitiveness is always there.

“Drag racing, more than any other sport, has the ability to set such a bold and dynamic stage. The competition is so pure. It’s all right there in front of you. Two cars, two drivers, two teams, pull up there and race. Less than seven seconds later it’s decided. And that excitement is only amplified by the Countdown to 1.

“How can you not get up for this?”

Coughlin’s 2007 championship was unique in that he never led the points until the final race of the year in Pomona, Calif. He made up 173 points on Anderson the first time the points were reset for the start of the playoffs, and a whopping 279 points on Connolly prior to the final two races.

He then managed to turn on the jets at the perfect time, taking runner-up honors in Vegas and a win in Pomona, while Anderson and Connolly both made critical missteps.

This year, the NHRA changed the playoff system to allow for just one reshuffling of the points, which occurred four races ago. Coughlin was once again third in the points at the start of the Countdown to 1, although this time he only netted a 51-point gain on regular season point leader Anderson.

Since then, Coughlin has been rock-steady, posting two runner-up, one semifinal, and one quarterfinal finish, while qualifying first or second on three occasions.

“We have the car to do it,” Coughlin said of defending his title. “I still think we need to win one of these final two races. I know Kurt, Greg, Dave and the others aren’t giving up. We’re in a better position than we were last year, three and a half rounds up, but that doesn’t mean a lot if we don’t close it out.

“Who knows how it’s going to turn out? Anything can happen. All I know for sure is it’s going to be a ton of fun.”

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