LAS VEGAS (Oct. 28) — The first round of eliminations of any drag race is always a bit nerve-wracking, and that's especially true when a world championship is hanging in the balance. But for two-time Pro Mod champ and current points leader Troy Coughlin, everything is going according to plan after a big first-round victory over Sidnei Frigo.

"It's the last race of the year and the big trophy is on the line so yes, everything is ramped up to the limit," Coughlin said. "It's a nervous and exciting time. If anybody out here says they don't feel those race day nerves, they're not human. You definitely get the butterflies and it's always a big relief to get that first win.

"Still, there's lots to do to secure the title so tonight we'll go out, have a nice dinner, hang with the guys a little bit, do our regular rituals and come back out swinging tomorrow. I will admit it'll probably be tough to sleep."

Coughlin qualified a respectable fifth on the elimination grid of the 17th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, posting a 5.848 at 253.80 mph in his twin-turbo Chevrolet Corvette C7. He then beat Frigo with a 5.808 at 255.58 mph to Frigo's 5.868 at 252.47 mph.

Of equal significance, Mike Castellana qualified just one spot better in fourth place, meaning the only driver left in the points chase that can catch Coughlin will need to go at least two rounds further in eliminations to steal away the title. Castellana had an easy first-round win when his opponent, teammate Mike Janis, couldn't back-up from his burnout.

Perhaps by fate, Coughlin and Castellana will actually race one another in Sunday's quarterfinal round with Coughlin enjoying the advantage of lane choice, meaning Coughlin could clinch the title with a victory. Should Castellana beat Coughlin, he'd still need to win an additional round to take
the championship.

"We've got a big match-up tomorrow but we had a big match-up in the first round and we had a big match-up all four rounds in St. Louis," Coughlin said, referencing his latest win. "This guy we are competing with tomorrow is just like the rest of them and we've got to be on our A game. I know they will be. We just have to cross our Ts and dot our Is and kick some ass.

"It's pretty exciting. I've said it 100 times but I couldn't be more proud of the guys working on this car, my crew chief Steve Petty along with Kyle Pettis and Mike Rees, those guys are champions already. The race car they have given me this whole season, yeah we've had our ups and down, we didn't qualify at one race and we've been beat in the first round at a couple of races, but they stayed with it and brought us into the last race at the top of the points. That speaks volumes of how good these guys are."

Pro Mod eliminations continue at 10 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:40 p.m., Sunday. (All times are local and subject to change.)


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