LAS VEGAS (Oct. 22) — Just 20 points, or the equivalent of one round of racing action, out of the POWERade points lead, three-time NHRA champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. knows this weekend’s seventh annual ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be a pivotal race for his Chevrolet Cobalt team.

Coughlin and teammate Dave Connolly, the current points leader, make up one-half of the four-car Countdown to One field. The Countdown is a new playoff-style system used to determine the 2007 champions. The format cut the field of potential champs down to eight racers after the first 17 races and down to four racers after 21 events. That leaves two races on the POWERade schedule for the final four to sort out who will win it all.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of the final phase of the Countdown and to have made both cuts so far,” said Coughlin, a three-time Vegas winner. “It’s huge for our team owners, Victor and Brita Cagnazzi, to have both of their cars in the final four. Now we need to finish this deal off and try to win them the championship.

“We certainly have two great chances to win. Dave has won the last five races in a row and is considered the favorite at this point to take the title. At the same time, we have the exact same equipment and team behind us on this side of the pit and we’d like to think we have a shot as well. The fact they re-stacked the points again puts us right back in the game. It should be an unbelievable two weeks of racing.”

With three wins in six final-round showings this year, Coughlin has already shown he has the tools to get the job done. His low qualifying effort at the tour’s last stop in Richmond, Va., also points to the fact his Cobalt will be up to the task.

“We’ve been building towards these final two races for several weeks now,” said Coughlin, one of only 11 racers in history to claim 50 national event victories. “I really believe this is going to come down to which team executes the best over these final two races. The group that makes the least amount of mistakes will probably take the trophy when all is said and done.

“For me personally, I need to be like a machine in the car. If I can take the variable of how the driver is going to perform out of the equation then the guys have one less thing to worry about. I also want to make darn sure we have fun because this is why we all work so hard — for moments like this.”

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