INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2) — Jeg Coughlin Jr. only made two qualifying passes down Lucas Oil Raceway during a long and trying three days of rain-plagued time trials, but those two runs were enough to earn him a spot in the field of the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and move him into the Full Throttle top 10, meaning he's eligible for this year's Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

At least for now, things are looking promising for the five-time world champion, who started fresh with a brand-new, in-house team this year.

"We're in for the time being," Coughlin said. "We can go to bed tonight knowing we're a part of the U.S. Nationals and that if we can take care of business on race day, we'll be in the Countdown field. At least that's the current state of affairs."

The U.S. Nationals usually features five rounds of qualifying but two were completely lost to rain and another only made it through a few pairs of cars before it was halted because of excessive dew on the racing surface.

Finally yielding to Mother Nature, officials decided to set the race day field Sunday afternoon, and Coughlin knew the 6.678 at 206.76 mph he posted Saturday was enough to keep in the mix in the No. 12 spot. That sets up a first-round match-up with Greg Anderson, who went 6.655 at 208.17 mph.

The only hitch at this point will come into play if Monday's action is rained out, in which case everyone will come back next weekend and have at least one more qualifying attempt.

"It's not the best-case scenario, especially for the fans," Coughlin said. "It's tough on the racers that didn't get in a good pass that are outside looking in. It's not what any of us want, but it's reality so we have to just set our game plan and get ready for tomorrow.

"We've got a big gun right out of the gate with Greg but the Dodge Avenger is running well and it's telling us it wants more so we can step it up and run with him, for sure. I'm driving well and guys are working hard. We have a chance and that's what you always wish for.

"At the same time, we're all looking up at the sky and wondering what's next."

If the race does go off Monday, Larry Morgan, one of the six racers who started the weekend fighting for one of four remaining playoff slots, will be eliminated with a DNQ. The other five drivers, including Coughlin, will battle for the final four positions, with Ronnie Humphrey needing to do the most work. Humphrey qualified in the final spot and will face red-hot Erica Enders in Round 1.

"We knew we controlled our own destiny on the way in but we were a few points out of the top 10," Coughlin said. "Now we're in the top 10 and we have a two-round cushion over Ronnie so our position has improved. Either way, we still have work to do and we'll be ready to get after it."

In Stock action, Coughlin's Hemi-powered Charger has carried him through three successful rounds of racing. He's slated to face fellow Pro Stock racer Dave Connolly next and will need three more round wins after that to take the crown.

"That car is running great," he said. "We had some good round wins and we feel like we can continue. I just need to keep focused because that class shows no mercy. It's so much fun."


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