BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 6) — The first goal for a professional racecar driver at any NHRA national event is to make sure he’s qualified in the 16-car field of drivers who will have a chance to run for the trophy on Sunday. In that regard, Pro Stock ace Jeg Coughlin Jr. is pleased with Friday’s opening two runs in his Chevrolet Cobalt at Bristol Dragway.

But to say the usually upbeat 36-time Pro Stock national event winner is completely happy with his Friday performances – a 6.829 and a 6.816 — which left him a mediocre 12th on the ladder, wouldn’t be accurate.

“If it weren’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have had any luck at all today,” said Coughlin, who won the Winston Showdown here in 1999. “We had some valve train issues during both runs. The motor just wasn’t very happy either time.

“We’re still diagnosing the post-run data and I’m sure we’ll get it figured out before tomorrow. It’s certainly not the start we wanted but at least we’re in the mix right now, which is something.”

Coughlin’s teammate at Cagnazzi Racing, Dave Connolly, started the day with an aborted run after his motor expired. He rebounded in the evening with a 6.795 that placed him second overall.

“Dave hurt a motor first run, which is very rare for this Cagnazzi group,” Coughlin said. “But they switched out motors and went right to the top. We’ll be able to learn from their data, which is one of the great advantages of a two-car team, and try to improve in the morning.”

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

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