HOUSTON (March 28) — POWERade points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. began qualifying action at the 21st annual O’Reilly Spring NHRA Nationals with a stout 6.673 at 207.37 mph that placed his JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt third after one session. The strong start paid dividends just a few hours later when Coughlin survived a close encounter with Houston Raceway Park’s retaining wall and failed to improve on his earlier number. Even so, he still maintained a spot in the top half of the field.

“I popped a nice wheelie (in the second session) and the car went left immediately,” the reigning world champion said. “I don’t know how close we actually came to hitting the wall but it was close, maybe a foot or so. It sure got my attention.”

While most drivers would have shut off after such an incident, Coughlin managed to straighten out his mount and run it down the strip, carding a surprising 6.682-second pass at 207.24 mph.

“It’s a new motor in there and we really wanted the data,” Coughlin said. “We had our hopes set high and Q2 was definitely the session to get after it but after the way we started I knew we wouldn’t improve on our earlier time. I still wanted to get the run in and salvage something out of it for the crew to work from.

“What happened was the rear tires just grabbed. There was no wheel spin at all. When it hooks that hard the car goes left. That’s what happened.

“Thankfully, we ran a great number in Q1 and that kept us in the top half of the field, which is really important. You never know what the weather will do. It might rain, in which case we’re gonna go into race day with lane choice. Or we could see even better conditions tomorrow and have another chance to improve. I really like the way this JEGS.com car is running right now.”

In three races this season, Coughlin has a victory, a runner-up finish, and a third-place result. Coughlin is 46 points ahead of his nearest rival in the points standings.

Saturday’s two qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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