Having missed the first event of the NMCA season due to a scheduling conflict with his NHRA Pro Mod endeavors, Coughlin knew his title defense would be long shot from the start. With two races left, Coughlin finds himself ranked fourth, 1,065 points back of leader Chris Rini, making it virtually impossible to catch him. All Rini needs to dethrone Coughlin is show up and make a qualifying pass at each of the last two races.
“Whether it’s Chris, (second place) Joe Dunne, or (third place) Jeff Lutz that ends up on top, my hat’s off to them,” Coughlin said. “I’m thinking it’s going to be Rini because he’s run so well all year but you never know. All we know is our championship run is most likely over for now so we’ll have to ramp up our efforts for 2011 and try to get it back.
“We really have a relaxed feeling coming into Gateway. There’s no pressure on us and I think we’ll take that and just go out there and have some fun.”
Coughlin’s last real glimmer of hope to retain his crown ended on the starting line at the preceding race in Milan, Mich., when his JEGS.com Pontiac GXP sprung an oil leak during his prerace burnout and he was shut off by officials before making a run.
“There was a little jet of oil squirting out of the overflow tank and it cost us,” Coughlin said. “Fortunately, it was an easy fix and (engine builder) Sonny Leonard walked us through some modifications we needed to make to rectify the problem. We’re good to go now.
“We’ve read the weather forecasts and it looks as though we’re going to have nice, cool conditions this weekend so we need to be ready for battle. I’d like to move up a few spots in the points, if possible, but more importantly I’d like to win one or both of these last two events. If we do that then we will move up in the points.”
The first round of pro qualifying begins at 6 p.m. Friday.