DELAWARE, Ohio (Oct. 24) — Pro Stock points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. is almost four rounds of action ahead of his nearest rival with just eight rounds left in the ’08 season, but the defending world champion isn’t taking anything for granted as the POWERade tour heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the eighth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals.

A veteran racer with four NHRA championships and 53 national event victories to his credit, Coughlin knows he can’t let up until his fifth title is secured. To that end, he and his Victor Cagnazzi Racing teammates will follow the same routine they did in 2007 when they closed the season with a runner-up finish in Las Vegas and a win in Pomona that clinched the championship.

“Our Chevrolet Cobalt has been running strong and we want to keep it that way so we’re heading to Tucson (Ariz.) for a few days of testing,” Coughlin said. “We want to make absolutely sure our car is prepared for the final two races. We’ve got a small lead, and that’s great, but we all know it can go away quickly if something happens. We want to eliminate as many of the variables as possible ahead of time.”

Widely regarded as one of the most unflappable drivers in the sport, Coughlin also wants to use the Tucson test to sharpen his mind for the task ahead.

“I’ve always been more of a positive thinker and throughout my career I’ve been good at warding off negative thoughts,” Coughlin said, “but I’m human and we can all see what’s at stake here. With two off-weekends between Richmond and Las Vegas I think all the interference is amplified because everyone you talk to — your friends, your family members, your co-workers — they’re all talking about it.

“It makes it exciting and I know the drama going forward is going to be spectacular. It will be felt throughout the pits, in the stands, and certainly among the drivers. The whole sport is elevated during this time. It’s another reason why this test session in Tucson is important; it’s going to give me a chance to clear my head.”

In the past, Coughlin has collected three wins and two runner-up finishes at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In 21 events this year, he has two wins, five runner-ups, and five semifinal finishes to his credit. His elimination-round record is 39-19, and he has reached the final round in four of the last eight races.

Should Coughlin manage to add 65 points to his current lead of 74, he could actually clinch the title in Las Vegas, but with eight other drivers still mathematically alive in the chase, he isn’t allowing himself to think that far ahead.

“We just need to do what we’ve been doing,” Coughlin said. “When you reach up and push that starter button, and that 500-inch GM motor comes to life, that’s when I feel the most comfortable.

“I love Vegas. It’s one of the premiere facilities on the circuit and we’ve done well there in the past. Plus, it’s in one of the hottest towns in the world, so it’s always fun.”

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