DALLAS (Sept. 21) — When the 2008 POWERade title is handed out at the end of the season, this Sunday’s race at the Texas Motorplex could very well be the one defending series champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. points to as the most critical of them all.

After watching championship contenders Greg Anderson and Jason Line inexplicably bow out in the first round of the 23rd annual Super Start Batteries NHRA Nationals — Anderson on a rare red-light and Line on a tragically late light — Coughlin knew he had a chance to do something special. That thought was extended one round later when former point leader Kurt Johnson also was eliminated earlier than expected.

“You see something like that happen and you know you have a great opportunity in front of you,” Coughlin said. “It’s not often that Greg and Jason both lose in Round 1, and the way Kurt’s been running you expect him to be there at the end of the day. I certainly got excited when I saw how things played out.

“Any time you can continue to go rounds when the people you’re locked in a point race with are on the sidelines it’s a good thing. We were able to move into the lead by a little bit and now we need to stay there.”

Starting the day from the No. 1 slot, Coughlin beat teammates Ron Krisher and Dave Connolly, as well as veteran Mike Edwards, to reach his 66th final round in the Pro Stock class. He faced No. 15 qualifier Greg Stanfield with the trophy on the line but lost the race by eight-thousandths of a second.

Both Coughlin and Stanfield had identical .015-second reaction times and Coughlin was ahead at half track, but Stanfield was able to catch and pass him down the back portion of the quarter mile to take the win by a few feet.

“We didn’t quite close the deal and that’s slightly disappointing because that’s 20 more points we left on the table but Greg earned the win and I congratulate him 100 percent,” Coughlin said. “That was his first Pro Stock win and I know he was excited. That team suffered a loss Friday when the team owner, Greg Hill, lost his granddaughter to an auto accident so I hope the win makes them all feel a little better.

“The Countdown to 1 playoffs are going to be every bit as exciting over the last four races as the first two have been. I can’t wait to get to Memphis Motorsports Park this Friday and get back after it. The JEGS.com Chevrolet Cobalt is getting better and better each week and we’re really hitting our stride at the right time.”

Coughlin leads Johnson by 14 points, Anderson by 46, and Line by 95.

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