RICHMOND, Va. (Oct. 10) — Considering the way he’s been running lately, Pro Stock point leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. was more than a little surprised to end the first day of qualifying for the third annual Virginia NHRA Nationals in 13th place on the provisional race day grid. It left the 53-time national event winner with one overriding thought — “Thank God for Saturday qualifying.”

Coughlin was eighth after an opening-round pass of 6.609 seconds at 207.75 mph. He slowed slightly to a 6.621 at 207.27 mph in a round where most of his peers improved.

“We’re struggling with either an engine problem or an electrical problem, we’re just not sure at this point,” Coughlin said. “But I can assure you we’ll figure it out before tomorrow morning. We’ve got two more engines in the trailer and all the electrical parts you could ever need so we’ll do the whole shuffle, go through the entire car, and fix it.

“We’re running the same combination we’ve been using. It gave us some trouble in Memphis but the guys have been on it for two weeks since then and they were sure they had it figured out. Some times, you can’t explain this stuff.”

Entering this weekend 32 points ahead in the POWERade points standings with three races left, Coughlin knows there is little margin for error. But his many years of experience have him feeling confident despite the slower-than-normal start.

“There is zero panic on this team,” Coughlin said. “We’ve all been through this before and anyone in drag racing knows these things come and go. They give us four qualifying rounds for a reason and I’d expect, quite frankly, that tomorrow morning’s run will be the best of the weekend, according to what the weathermen are telling us.

“We’ll be fine. You always want to start strong but it’s not the end of the world when you don’t. There’s lost left to do this weekend.”

Temperatures should be in the high 60s in Saturday’s opening session of qualifying, which is scheduled for noon.

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