POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 11) — Sunny Southern California made a move towards Autumn Saturday, which suited the racers vying for the title of the 42nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway just fine. Almost everyone used their final qualifying attempt to make the elimination field, including defending race champion Jeg Coughlin, who zipped to a 6.697 at 206.23 mph under the coolest weather conditions of the race weekend.

“I was surprised that more cars didn’t pick up more in that last session like we did,” Coughlin said. “It worked out great for us because we were able to move up on the ladder, which is always a good thing. There are still improvements that can be made but I would expect we’ll go into race day with pretty much the same tune-up we used right there.”

Coughlin’s pass placed his Slammers Ultimate Milk/Jegs.com Chevrolet Cobalt in seventh place overall, setting up a first-round date with fellow Ohioan Ron Krisher, who qualified 10th with a 6.703 at 205.01 mph. Coughlin will have lane choice, which seems very important here as the left lane has produced far more impressive runs than the right.

“The Safety Safari always does an outstanding job of preparing the racetrack but the facts are that some of the racetracks favor one lane over the other,” Coughlin said. “It seems the left side is slightly better here but that can always change, even during the race. The nice thing is that we have lane choice in the first round so we can pick which side we want. The trick will be to maintain lane choice as eliminations move along.”

A 47-time national event winner with three series titles to his credit, Coughlin is the defending champion of this event. Last year he beat Tom Martino in what was his last event driving for Don Schumacher Racing. He has since switched to Victor Cagnazzi’s camp, which includes Tommy Lee and Dave Connolly.

“We’re hoping to get one of these cars in the winner’s circle,” Coughlin said. “It would be an honor for me to repeat. This race is so special to me. It always has been.”

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