READING, Pa. (Aug. 17) — Reigning series Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. captured his 40th career Pro Stock victory Sunday by defeating teammate Dave Connolly in the final of the 24th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. The win put Coughlin all alone in fourth place in the all-time list for Pro Stock victories, a remarkable accomplishment for a 38-year-old racer.

Combined with his 13 national event victories in the Sportsman ranks, Coughlin now has 53 Wally trophies, the 10th most in the 57-year history of NHRA drag racing.

“We’ve been flirting with a win for awhile now and it feels wonderful to get it done,” Coughlin said. “The main thing is we want to carry momentum into Indy and then the playoffs and there’s no better way to build up momentum than to go out there and turn the win light on. Great work by the entire Chevrolet Cobalt team.”

This win took some work as Coughlin started the day as the No. 11 qualifier and was never quick enough to have the advantage of lane choice until the final round when, as it turned out, he didn’t need it. Nevertheless, he beat veteran Vieri Gaines, two-time champion Jim Yates, and POWERade title contender Kurt Johnson to reach his 65th career Pro Stock final.

“I started the day thinking we had a top-five car but the race against V., I’ll tell ya, he gave us all we could handle,” Coughlin said. “We were like the 14th quickest of the round and we only beat V. by two-thousandths of a second, but to get a break like that really lifted us up. It set the tome for the day.”

With the race on the line in the final, Coughlin got the win at the starting line when Connolly fouled-out by leaving -.005 seconds early, an automatic disqualification. Just for good measure, Coughlin went on to post his best elapsed time of the weekend, a 6.650 at 206.39 mph, to secure the win.

The red-light start by Connolly, who joined Coughlin and others in the playoff field with his runner-up finish, was Coughlin’s second gift-wrapped win of the day. Semifinal foe Kurt Johnson also fouled out by -.004 seconds.

“I don’t know if my rep had much to do with it,” Coughlin said, when asked by the media if his reputation on the starting line may have spooked his rivals into red-lighting. “I haven’t exactly been sawing the tree down lately. It’s more likely that we won because we did the best job, as a team, of adapting to the racetrack throughout the day.

“We want to win our fifth championship this year and the closer we are to the No. 1 spot when the playoffs start, the better it will be. We moved up to third today and we could mathematically get as high as second in Indy, so that’s what we’ll try to do. We’ve been talking about getting that look back in our eye and I think we did that a little bit today.”

The POWERade Drag Racing Series will conduct one more race, the 54th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, before the six-race playoffs begin Sept. 11-14 with the inaugural Carolina NHRA Nationals in Charlotte, N.C.

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