GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15) — Back-to-back defending series champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. reached the quarterfinal round of the 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals before an aborted run ended his quest for the trophy.

The driver of the Chevrolet Cobalt opened the day with an easy dismissal of Justin Humphreys, running a 6.659 at 208.10 mph against Humphreys’ drifting 14-second pass.

That set up a quarterfinal race against Allen Johnson, who posted a 6.612 in Round 1. Coughlin knew he needed a great reaction time to equalize Johnson’s performance and he got it, leaving the starting line four hundredths of a second before his foe after a great .007-second light. But his car soon went into tire shake and pushed Coughlin towards the wall, forcing him to lift off the gas and give up the run.

“We got what we needed at the tree and it could have been a close one at the other end but we didn’t get it done today,” Coughlin said. “We win as a team and we go down together. I know there are a lot of champions in this group so we’ll get together and fix what we need to fix and get after it again in Houston.

“I’m an optimistic person by nature but it’s hard to avoid the fact that we struggled this weekend. We just didn’t have a good car. The guys changed the engine out overnight but now we don’t think that was the problem. We thought we knew what to give the car but it didn’t like what we did.”

Coughlin qualified sixth here with a 6.623 at 207.50 mph. He was the No. 4 qualifier in Phoenix, a race he won, and sixth again at the season opener in Pomona.

“We need to rework the recipe with the entire car and start fresh,” said the 38-year-old from Delaware, Ohio. “We’re seeing that the (lower elapsed time) numbers have been out there to get at each of the first three races but we’ve been just a click or two back. We just need to close that gap up a little and we’ll be fine.”

The tour takes a week off before heading to Houston Raceway Park March 27-29 for the 22nd annual O’Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil.


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