LAS VEGAS (Nov. 2) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. hopes to continue chiseling away at the lead of teammate Erica Enders Sunday at the 19th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals after qualifying fifth overall in a competitive 16-car Pro Stock field.
Coughlin has moved from eight to third in the points since the Countdown to the Championship started four races ago and knows Sunday's elimination session at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be pivotal in this year's playoff chase.
"We feel very good about our playoff run to date and we certainly look to keep this good momentum going tomorrow," Coughlin said. "We need to out-last the two cars in front of us in the points and hold off the group right behind us to give ourselves a chance at this thing.
"I'm excited about the performance of the car and I'm pleased with my driving so if we just continue to stay aggressive like we have been in the last four races we can reach our goals. We'd really like to get another trophy here in Vegas. We've won here six times in the past (five in Pro Stock, one in Super Comp) and certainly if we do win we will move up no matter what anyone else does. We just need to stay after it."
Fresh out of the trailer in the first of four qualifying sessions, Coughlin wrestled a 6.599 at 207.82 mph out of his JEGS.com Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro Friday afternoon, which ended up being his run of record. By qualifying fifth overall, Coughlin will have lane choice over Fernando Cuadra, who maxed out at 6.625 at 207.82 mph. Cuadra and Coughlin have split their previous two meetings this year.
"We were No. 1 qualifier at the last race in Dallas and No. 2 qualifier at the two races before that but we went ahead and cooked up something a little different here just to see if we could squeeze a few more thousandths of a second out of it," Coughlin said. "We didn't quite hit that mark so Rickie (Jones, crew chief) is working on a different recipe for tomorrow."
This weekend's race started with Coughlin 65 points behind Enders in the championship standings. Each round of elimination racing awards 20 points to the winner so he needs a strong run Sunday to completely erase the deficit. But with the season finale two weeks from now in Pomona, Calif., awarding points and a half, any reduction in the gap would keep Coughlin very much in the mix for a sixth Pro Stock title.
"It's been really exciting, especially these last few races," Coughlin said. "Having my Elite Motorsports teammates in the title hunt with me has made for an incredible atmosphere in the pits. We're all pushing each other to be better, which is exciting.
"I have complete confidence in my guys and even though Saturday night in Vegas is generally a great time, I'm much more excited about Sunday's racing."